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Lord Judd: My Lords, I am very glad to support this amendment. It is not just my great regard for the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, in his commitment to the best heritage in our society and to preserving it that makes me want to support him but the issue itself. Litter is a menace in our society. It is disfiguring our towns and villages and the countryside. If we really care about our inheritance and preserving what is best, it is no good just having exhortations and principles, which are sometimes enunciated in legislation; it is essential to have some muscle in what is being done to combat it. A few egocentric, selfish people can ruin
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I sometimes get a little frustrated in my home community. I have the pleasure of being the president of the Friends of the Lake District-which, of course, represents the CPRE in the whole of Cumbria-but I sometimes reflect in my own neighbourhood of the community how people who take tremendous pains and care with their own gardens and their own estates seem to abandon responsibility when they move outside the garden gate. We have to promote a sense of community commitment on this, followed through with legislation consisting not only of words but the means to make it happen.
It is not an accident that nations that are healthy socially and economically have a great deal of civic pride. I sometimes think that it is a good way of measuring the state of psychology of a nation. If a nation is in good heart, there is a much better chance that all these matters will be taken seriously. On the other hand, it is a two-way argument, because if we let things slip people lose interest. They lose their sense of civic pride and their sense of belonging to a community and needing to make sure that our community is strong and prosperous. It all goes together psychologically. From this standpoint, I thoroughly commend the amendment that has been brought back at Third Reading. The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, was absolutely right to bring it back at this stage.
Like my noble friend, I did not think very much of the Minister's arguments for not accepting my noble friend's amendment on Report. He argued that we could wait and see how it worked out in London when London boroughs get powers under the latest London Local Authorities Bill to issue the registered keepers of vehicles with civil penalties where enforcement officers witness littering from a vehicle. I thought that argument had some plausibility.
However, London is not the country. Litter thrown from vehicles is a particular scourge of the countryside. People driving through the countryside may feel themselves more likely to be unobserved and so more prone to commit the offence. They may well be right. Creating this new offence may work better in towns than it will in the country-we simply do not know-but I suggest that the logical thing to do would be to allow it to be tried out in different parts of the country. My noble friend's amendment would enable this to happen by permitting local authorities who are particularly keen to do so to take action.
I hope the Government will accept the amendment. If they do not and do not say that they have now changed their minds and intend to introduce, at the earliest opportunity, a new national offence along the lines of my noble friend's amendment, I hope my noble friend will press his amendment to a Division and I shall certainly support it.
Lord Deben: I am attracted to the amendment, which has been so ably moved by my noble friend Lord Marlesford. As a campaigning environmentalist
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I find it one of the more depressing things that, in the beautiful part of England where I live, at most weekends the first part of the job is to pick up the various items that have been pushed into the hedge and down the drive of the house in which I live. It is a sad fact but it is one that needs to be taken seriously, and I hope noble Lords will agree that this elegant use of the Bill-to give opportunity for particular local authorities to make a particular choice-would be a sensible step. I am sure the Minister may have some really remarkable argument to show a better way forward, which I look forward to hearing.
In Suffolk we have a very successful campaign, which I have to speak of very carefully because it is headlined by the phrase, "Don't be a tosser". It is designed to make people stop throwing things out of car windows. This is a real issue. The local authorities in Suffolk might well like to take the opportunity, were they able to, to help the Government by trialling such a proposal. I hope the Government will take seriously what the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, has suggested.
Lord Cameron of Dillington: My Lords, I strongly support this amendment, and in doing so I must declare an interest as a farmer. We are plagued by litter from cars down in Somerset where I come from. It does not tend to be what I would call black-bag-type litter, although that is sometimes worse because the bags are thrown out of cars and explode and the litter goes all over the field in a real mess and is very difficult to pick up.
The worst sort of litter that we have is old fridges, old cookers, old beds and old mattresses. They get poured out into little nooks and crannies by the road and then seem to breed. I feel that there is a book in here somewhere, although perhaps not the type of stuff the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, writes. You get one cooker, and then two. Then they will have a daughter of a fridge and a mattress will arrive. It is a most extraordinary thing and no one seems to have the responsibility for picking it up. I know one or two local farmers who shovel the stuff back on to the road, so then it becomes the responsibility of the Highways Agency, which of course makes it responsible for littering the countryside.
It is obviously very difficult for the local council, because almost every night somewhere around my neighbourhood someone has dumped some particular object or other. Can the council do anything to prosecute the motorist? If you are worried that it might not be the motorist who has dumped it but someone in the car, do not tell me that a motorist is not responsible if his car is stopped and a fridge gets thrown out. A motorist is just as responsible as the person who might be in the back seat. I really endorse this amendment and think it is really very important that we support it.
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I support the concept of this amendment, but we are in danger of making even more laws when we cannot enforce the ones we have. I find pretty incredible the idea of somebody such as a litter warden-I do not think the police would do it-chasing every car that goes down a country lane to see whether something falls out of the window and then trying to identify who threw it via the keeper. The same could apply in parks or on the roads. Who is going to enforce these laws? I wonder whether either of the noble Lords who have put their name to this amendment could actually tell the House how many convictions there have been for dropping litter, even without this amendment, since the law came into effect. I am afraid that it is probably a solution that is nice to have but will not make much difference. We have to do much more to educate people about not throwing litter or dumping things and helping them, as my noble friend Lord Judd said, to have more pride in the environment in which they live.
Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, I, too, support the amendment, but I have only one question to ask my noble friend who is going to reply. When he replied on 10 October, at col. 1370, it was perfectly clear that he had been briefed about the London Local Authorities Bill currently before Parliament. I had made the point that it was awaiting some technical changes to be approved by the Government. The Ministry of Justice and no doubt the DCLG will also have been involved. Can my noble friend tell me anything more about that? How long are we going to have to wait before that Bill can be made to work? That is what we are waiting for, and at the moment it is in the hands of the Government. Can she tell me anything about that?
Lord Beecham: My Lords, I shall not detain the House for long. This is in my view a model amendment. It does not require local authorities to take action but creates a power for them to do so, which is absolutely right in the circumstances. It is for them to make a judgment about whether in particular circumstances it is likely that they can secure convictions in an urban area-to respond to my noble friend Lord Berkeley. It would be easier to do so than in a rural area, obviously, because there would be witnesses and people who would take note. Frankly, I suspect that the situation is worse in urban areas even than in the rural areas about which we have heard.
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, for moving this amendment. We have had some discussion about it and have had two serious debates in this House. I am afraid that there are serious problems with the amendment. One of them was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. The fact is that it is extremely difficult when most enforcement law is not carried out anyway and you are just adding to it. As the noble Lord, Lord
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What we need is proper education and proper campaigns. As the noble Lord, Lord Deben, said, his authority is not sitting around waiting for a by-law-it has got itself up and going and is running a campaign with a quite attractive title. I have to say that it strikes one as something that might have had the noble Lord behind it. So we do not really need this.
There is a further difficulty. Local authorities can make by-laws only for themselves. If one authority has a by-law and another does not, where is the fridge going to be dropped? It will be dropped within the one that does not have a by-law. Furthermore, local authorities cannot deal with motorways or main roads outside their control. Those are in the power of the Highways Agency, which has not been included in the amendment.
I know that the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, is going to be very upset with me, because we have had a discussion that will make him upset with me, but I want to go back to the position that we do have the London Local Authorities Bill, which has powers in it. I appreciate that it is largely urban, but London local authorities stretch out beyond the urban to the suburbs and even, may I say it, border on greenbelt and places that could be tempted to be rural. What we want to do is to see what happens as a result of that Bill. The Bill is a private Bill, as everyone knows, and is before Parliament now. It has completed its Lords stages and is at an advanced stage in the House of Commons. The expectation is that if there are no more challenges to it, it will proceed on its way. When that is implemented, we will be able to see what can be done. The Bill will allow a local authority to issue a civil penalty to registered keepers whereas the amendment of the noble Lord would make it a criminal offence. This would make it a civil offence with a penalty charge notice of £100, and that would be to the registered keeper.
There has been some discussion about whether the registered keeper is the person who ought to be responsible for this. Under the amendment of the noble Lord, the registered keeper would have to be asked who was in the car-very similar to a charge within a court of an offence asking for a statutory declaration. If we can move it into the civil area, I think that would be a worthwhile approach. The Bill will also enable local boroughs to issue civil penalties. We hope that is going to receive Royal Assent later this year. We want to see whether that can be a good route out.
In the mean time, I am going to use those terrible words about getting people to understand what they are doing. The Government are already supporting Keep Britain Tidy in developing the Love Where You Live campaign-that is nearly as good as the tosser. We are also supporting other campaigns in order to make people realise what they are doing. I do not
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I cannot accept the amendment. I know the noble Lord will be upset with me about that, but there are still too many problems associated with it to make it one that we can put into legislation at this stage. I hope the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw it after my explanation.
Lord Marlesford: My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend for her comments. I am most grateful for the support that I got from all sides of the House. I would like to answer the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, straight away. First, I am not creating a new offence as such. All I am trying to do is to make the 1990 Act, which has failed for the reasons we have discussed, work better. How many prosecutions there have been or how many there will be is completely unknowable. I suppose we could know how many there have been, but the point is that at the moment the thing cannot be enforced. In my book, unenforceable law is bad law. You should not have laws which put obligations and requirements which cannot be, and therefore are not, enforced. That is the way to bring the law into contempt.
Lord Berkeley: I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. The Act applies to more offences than throwing things out of motor cars, so have there been any convictions for other litter offences without this problem of motor cars?
Lord Marlesford: I am talking about the problem, not of motor cars but of motor vehicles-a little wider than motor cars but not as wide as the noble Lord seeks to draw me. I am not concerned with other things that the Act does. I am sure there are lots of bits of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 which work extremely well. What I cannot accept is the suggestion of my noble friend that it is not necessary. It is necessary for us to do something about litter. This is one thing we could do. It is a simple thing. It is an enabling power. It is a power which gives local authorities the opportunity, as my noble friend Lord Jenkin explained, to do what is being done in London. Therefore, it is wholly appropriate to the Bill. All too often one has found that the Government talk one thing and either do nothing or do something quite different. I would like to feel that this House will give a signal that it basically believes that something should be done and that something can be done. I beg leave to test the opinion of the House.
Lord Shutt of Greetland: My Lords, this is a group of several amendments. They are government, minor, technical and consequential amendments to the Bill that are necessary to correct some minor errors, provide clarity of expression in places and ensure that clauses operate as intended. I beg to move.
Lord McKenzie of Luton:My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his explanation of all of these amendments. It was rather hard-going trying to work through them all, as they came through fairly late in the day. However, we are happy to accept them on the basis that, as he said, they are minor, technical and consequential, and on the basis of an assurance I hope he will give us that they do not change policy, processes or, in particular, the protections for local authorities that were achieved by the sterling work of the Front Bench opposite-particularly by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, who has been dealing with EU fines. I would just like to ask the noble Lord where things stand on the draft policy statement. I am not clear whether that has become a finalised policy statement and what its status is. Subject to that, I am happy to support these amendments.
"(4) Any provision of a certificate under subsection (2) which has the effect of excluding the whole or part of any periodic payment mentioned in subsection (3)(a)(iii) (including any such payment which has fallen due from the United Kingdom since the earlier certificate was given) may be varied by a further certificate under subsection (2)."
24: Clause 55, page 58, line 30, leave out from "payments" to end of line 31 and insert ", whether any acts of the authority have continued, and will continue, to cause or contribute to the continuation of that infraction"
25: Clause 55, page 58, line 33, leave out "(as specified under subsection (3)(b) of that section)" and insert "(as being the amount to be specified under section 56(2)(b) if a final notice is given)"
"(ii) any periodic payments not included in that total amount (including both payments that have fallen due since the date specified under section 54(7)(b) and future periodic payments)"
"(i) have caused or contributed to the infraction of EU law concerned; or
(ii) have caused or contributed, or will continue to cause or contribute, to the continuation of that infraction;"
32: Clause 56, page 59, line 40, leave out from "amount" to "and" in line 41 and insert "or proportion required to be paid towards any future periodic payment (as defined for the purposes of paragraph (b))"
"(4) Any provision of a certificate under subsection (1) which has the effect of excluding the whole or part of any periodic payment mentioned in subsection (3)(a)(iii) (including any such payment which has fallen due from the United Kingdom since the earlier certificate was given) may be varied by a further certificate under subsection (2)."
38: Clause 65, page 68, line 1, leave out from "payments" to end of line 2 and insert ", whether any acts of the authority have continued, and will continue, to cause or contribute to the continuation of that infraction"
"(ii) any periodic payments not included in that total amount (including both payments that have fallen due since the date specified under section 64(7)(b) and future periodic payments)"
"(i) have caused or contributed to the infraction of EU law concerned; or
(ii) have caused or contributed, or will continue to cause or contribute, to the continuation of that infraction;"
46: Clause 66, page 69, line 13, leave out from "amount" to "and" in line 14 and insert "or proportion required to be paid towards any future periodic payment (as defined for the purposes of paragraph (b)"
"(8) Sub-paragraph (6) of paragraph 4 of Schedule 8 to the Local Government Finance Act 1988 (contributions regulations for a financial year to be in force by preceding 1 January) does not apply to regulations under that paragraph in their application to the financial year beginning in 2012 so far as they make provision related to the operation of section 47 of that Act as amended by this Act."
(a) publish guidance on the meaning and application of "sustainable development", and
(b) take such steps as he considers necessary to bring such guidance to the attention of relevant bodies.
(a) a local planning authority,
(b) a county council in England that is not a local planning authority,
(c) the Secretary of State when carrying out functions relating to applications for development consent,
(d) a qualifying body as defined in section 61E(6) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, and
(e) a body or other person that is prescribed or of a prescribed description."
Lord Greaves: My Lords, we move back fairly quickly to discuss Part 5 of the Bill on planning. My amendment is grouped with a Labour amendment, Amendment 51. This is my fourth attempt to put a reference to a definition of sustainable development in the Bill. We have the end of this Bill in sight in your Lordships' House, and I should like to take this opportunity, specifically in relation to sustainable development and the other planning provisions in the Bill, to thank the Ministers in this House; Greg Clark, the Minister in the Commons in charge of the Bill; and the team of civil servants responsible for the Bill for what seems to have been an enormous number of discussions and careful consideration that they have given to the points I and my colleagues have raised in relation to planning.
As for this issue, I believe that there was a willingness to consider it seriously. However, it has again fallen prey to the legal advice that Ministers have received-like their predecessors in the previous Government-that the Bill is not the place to provide for sustainable development. I regret this but, nevertheless, we are where we are.
The amendment sets out what we understand-from discussions with the Government and from government statements in all our debates on sustainable development and the national planning policy framework in recent
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"The purpose of the planning system is to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development. Sustainable development means development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs"-
"It is central to the economic, environmental and social success of the country and is the core principle underpinning planning. Simply stated, the principle recognises the importance of ensuring that all people should be able to satisfy their basic needs and enjoy a better quality of life, both now and in the future".
In particular, it does not recognise that the definition and strategy for sustainable development moved on significantly in the 2005 sustainable development strategy, Securing the Future, which the present Government have assured us on a number of occasions is still valid, that they are not in any way revoking it, and that they still stand by the strategy. The 2005 strategy contains a number of basic definitions of sustainable development and the Labour amendment in this group sets them out. While I should not, technically, speak to that amendment until it has been spoken to by the Labour Party, I feel some proprietorial right to do so, given that it is, as far as I can see, word for word, identical to the amendment that I moved on Report. I am flattered by the fact that the Labour Party has tabled that amendment again, and I regard it as being a compliment on my parliamentary drafting. Perhaps I should make it clear that I regard that as requiring an ironic comment. Never mind- perhaps it requires what I might call a "Sewel smiley". If we can have Sewel Motions, perhaps we can have Sewel smileys. However, it is interesting that, yet again, the Labour Party seems to be one step behind what we are doing on this Bill.
My amendment on Report was to an extent probing, but its essence, and the essence of what has been put forward across the House-both in the debates on the Bill and on the national planning policy framework-is the three pillars of economic, social and environmental considerations; the need for balance between them; and the importance within the planning system of achieving that balance.
"There has been some suggestion that the proposals represent a fundamental change in what the system is about, but they do not. They will, quite rightly, balance the environmental, the social and the economic, and there is no change in that regard".-[Official Report, Commons, 20/10/11; col. 1082.]
I regard that as extremely helpful and encouraging. I know that the Minister will have some difficulty in saying too much, or indeed anything at all, about what the Government may be intending or wishing to put in the NPPF at some point in the future after they have considered the consultation on it. The consultation has closed. There have been 14,000 responses, which are more than a few, and I understand that for the best possible reasons the Minister cannot pre-empt the government response.
I have one further anecdote. When I got home this weekend, I discovered among my mail a glossy little colour pamphlet from Pendle Borough Council asking people to take part in the consultation on its core strategy, or local plan. The pamphlet had in it a nice little coloured diagram-what I understand is called a Venn diagram-with three overlapping circles representing the social, economic and environmental aspects under the heading "What is sustainable development? How is Pendle going to do it?". I commend Pendle council's initiative to the Government. I am happy to send them a copy of the diagram if they want to put it in their literature, and I hope very much that what we see when the NPPF finally comes out is the kind of thing that people right around the House and indeed right round the country want to see.
In accepting the position that the Government are in, we are taking my noble friend the Minister and her Government on trust on this. I believe, and hope, that we will not be disappointed. I look forward to what she is able to say today and I beg to move.
Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, has spotted, we have an amendment in this group which may be familiar to him. Frankly, particularly following the debate last week, we were concerned that something was not going to get on to the agenda for tonight, so we reached for a handy amendment and this one came within our view. We tabled it to make sure that we had a last opportunity to address issues concerning sustainable development.
I am comforted by what the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, has just said if it is his understanding that the Government's intent is consistent with the contents of his amendment. We accept that definitions are not going to be included in the Bill but I hope that at least we shall be able to get very strong assurances that there will be full definitions in the NPPF. However, again I accept that the state of the consultation and what now has to happen will mean that the noble Baroness cannot be as fulsome as she would perhaps wish to be.
Notwithstanding that, I should like to hear from the Government more precisely where they stand on sustainable development. We have had assertions in
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Lord Best: My Lords, perhaps it would be valuable to noble Lords to hear the views of the Local Government Association. I declare my interest as its president. The LGA believes that sustainable development can only be defined locally. Indeed, sustainable development makes sense only at a local level, as set out in the definition of sustainable development at the beginning of the national planning policy framework. There must be a balance between economic, environmental and social issues and locally elected councillors must have the flexibility to make the necessary trade-offs locally. In relation to guidance from central Government, the LGA maintains that the NPPF should make clear that it will be for the local plan to set out what sustainable development means for the local area and for the development that it will require.
Lord Howarth of Newport: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Best, and the LGA are surely right that sustainable development must be interpreted locally and in the end you can only determine what it means in relation to local circumstances. However, I agree with both noble Lords who have spoken in the debate that it is important that the Government should fill out their definition, or at least their understanding of what is intended by sustainable development. The Brundtland definition is so high level that it leaves too much scope for varying interpretation. In the absence of specificity and rather fuller detail in the way in which the Government have set forth this policy, there is space for all sorts of anxieties to grow. Those anxieties have been intensified by what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said in his Budget speech when he referred to the planning system as being a "chronic obstacle to growth". That is a profoundly misplaced analysis. Whether or not the planning system has played some part in obstructing growth over the years, what matters now is that a lot of people in this country are anxious about the Government's intention. While they may possibly acquit CLG of desiring to concrete over the countryside and so forth, they have anxieties about the Treasury's reading of the situation and intentions. I think that they feel the Treasury would be too ready to see the protections that the planning system has historically given to our countryside to prevent inappropriate development being swept aside.
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The Government would do themselves a good turn and would allay a great deal of anxiety that I am sure in reality is needless if they would undertake to clarify and amplify their intentions in committing themselves to promoting sustainable development. Like other noble Lords I do not think that it is appropriate to attempt a full definition on the face of primary legislation because, as we have noted, the understanding of sustainable development has itself developed over the years and will surely continue to do so. It seems that the right place for that is guidance, whether in an expanded section of the NPPF or perhaps in greater detail in fuller supplementary guidance that I continue to hope the Government will issue to support the NPPF because, admirable as I believe most of its tendencies to be, it is too high level and leaves too much scope for ambiguity and doubt.
There is not only anxiety but the danger of legal conflict and uncertainty among all concerned. I think that it would be very helpful if the noble Baroness were able to say that the Government have made up their mind firmly that they will provide a fuller explanation and definition of what they intend by sustainable development.
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, in the previous debate I promised to go away and think about what should be done and whether sustainable development should find itself in legislation or in the national planning policy framework. It has been clear throughout the passage of the Bill that this matter has demanded careful consideration. It has been raised over and over again. We discussed this very thoroughly on Report, and I think we established that there was a good degree of agreement between us about the outcome that we are trying to achieve. I said then that there should be no doubt about the Government's commitment to securing sustainable development through planning and to meeting environmental, social and economic needs in a balanced way. Those are the three legs of the stool that reference the planning side. It has been apparent from the debates we have had on the Bill and in the House that we need to be clear and to go further in setting out how our commitment can be achieved.
Having agreed to go away and come back with our view on whether the Bill could be amended to effect this aim or whether it could be part of the consultation on the draft national planning policy framework, it is appropriate to say more on that. I appreciate that the amendment put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, and his colleagues is designed helpfully to probe our intentions on this, and I accept that the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, was trying to do the same thing. I hope I can provide reassurance.
We now have the benefit of the consultation responses and the draft NPPF. As noble Lords have said, there are 14,000 replies, and many of them are going to address this specific issue. We also have the evidence given to the environmental audit committee, so there is quite a lot of external thought coming on this. Of the responses that we have been able to look at so far, many have made a cogent case for defining sustainable
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We cannot finalise our policy on the NPPF until we have considered all 14,000-plus responses, so I am not going to try to pre-empt that, but important themes are emerging that we want to take into account as we refine our approach. In particular, we know that we need to address the way in which the definition works alongside the presumption in favour of sustainable development, so it is clear that what we want to see through the presumption is that development is sustainable. The planning system should help to secure net benefits for present and future generations, including promoting strong, vibrant and healthy communities together with protecting and enhancing our natural, built and historic environment-we have always had a commitment to that, but I think some of it got skewed during the early part of the consultation process, almost before it had started-in situations in which there could be limits to the environment's ability to accept further development without irreversible damage. We will carefully consider what noble Lords and noble friends have said about building on and explicitly referencing the principles that underpinned the 2005 UK sustainable development strategy, which is the relevant strategy. We are crystal clear-as the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, pointed out, my honourable friend Greg Clark, who has been managing this Bill, is clear-that sustainable development has the three legs that we have spoken about: environmental, economic and social dimensions. The purpose of the planning system as a whole is to achieve a balanced outcome-I hope that this to some extent addresses the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Howarth-that actually reflects all three of these points.
From everything that we have heard to date, I believe that the national planning policy framework, rather than legislation, is the place where we can deal with these practical issues most effectively. It is in the national planning policy framework that we can explain fully what we mean by sustainable development and how it relates to planning. The NPPF will be the key policy reference for those preparing plans as well as an important material consideration for dealing with planning applications, so while I understand that the intention behind Amendment 51 is to ensure that there is a detailed definition of sustainable development in the Bill and that it applies to all functions related to planning, my response is the same as when this amendment was put forward on Report.
As the debate on Report showed only too clearly, it is difficult to deal with the practical application of sustainable development in legislation. We heard then the wide range of views on what the legal definition should embrace, and other elements were
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The amendment by the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, also risks unintended consequences. I said on Report that the more you seek to define sustainable development in legal rather than in policy terms, the more trouble you are likely to get into. You end up creating more and more tests that may be impossible to comply with in every situation. The result is likely to be disproportionate box-ticking to avoid the risk of challenge to decisions, rather than the more considered approach to how the planning of an area can promote sustainable development.
What I have said does not, of course, represent any weakening of our resolve to maintain a strong statutory basis for securing sustainable development through planning but keeping it at an appropriate board level. That is found in the existing duty, in Section 39 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, on those preparing local plans to do so with the objective of contributing to the achievement of sustainable development.
In the amendment that we tabled on Report, the principle is extended to neighbourhood planning by placing on all neighbourhood planning proposals an explicit condition relating to sustainable development, and the new duty to co-operate in planning for sustainable development that the Bill introduces will ensure that councils and other public bodies co-operate effectively on strategic planning matters, which includes sustainable development.
Taken together, these legislative requirements will ensure that the principle of sustainable development runs through all levels of planning-strategic, local and neighbourhood. Because decisions on individual applications must by law be plan-led, the goal of sustainable development will permeate the planning system as a whole.
I began by setting out our firm intention of expanding the definition of sustainable development in the national planning policy framework and addressing key concerns that have emerged from the consultation. With that assurance in mind, I would like to explain why I think that Amendment 50 is unnecessary. Ever since sustainable development became a key policy concern in the 1980s, all Governments have issued policy statements on its meaning and application. This Government are no different. We published our vision for mainstreaming sustainable development in February this year, and for the planning system the national planning policy framework will provide a coherent statement of how sustainable development should be interpreted and apply. A statutory requirement to produce guidance would not add to what we are doing already. What matters, as I know noble Lords recognise, is what the guidance contains. We are, as I have explained, committed to getting that right.
With the strong statutory underpinning for sustainable development that I have set out and our firm commitment to using the national planning policy framework to set out clearly what this means in practice, I believe that we will be able to deliver what all sides of this House want to see: a positive planning system with a clear
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Lord McKenzie of Luton: When the draft NPPF was issued for consultation, did the Government seek to change what had hitherto been the balance between the various components of sustainable development at that stage? Was it the Government's intent to place greater emphasis on economic growth at the expense of the others? I do not assert that that is where the Government may end up, but obviously there was great concern from the wording of the document that that was the intention at that stage. Can the noble Baroness dispel that concern, or is it a real issue?
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, the initial expectation in the NPPF was that there would be a balanced approach to this. There are the three legs that are really relevant to planning: economic, social and environmental. Brundtland, of course, includes science, and we have been given lots of other ideas of what it might include. If I can just leave it at that, we expect this to be a balanced approach to sustainable development and we recognise that there are elements that are more reflective of the planning system. Then we will have to wait and see what comes out of the discussions.
Lord Greaves: My Lords, I am extremely grateful for that reply from my noble friend the Minister, who I think went as far as she could-in fact, I think she pushed the limits a little further than some of her more cautious advisers might have liked. I hope that what she said turns out to be satisfactory in the long run.
I just want to say another couple of quick things about sustainable development. Going back to what Greg Clark said in the House of Commons debate on the NPPF, which I think is extremely important, this is not just about balance. Balance is very important indeed, but really good planning can enhance all the three legs, or pillars, or whatever they may be called, of sustainable development. That is possible with good planning. Clearly individual decisions may be balanced one way or another, but overall there has to be balance and enhancement, particularly of the environment. Again, I hope that the issue of environmental limits that you cannot go beyond will be addressed in the NPPF.
Listening to this debate, I was musing that we have not only had the four debates on sustainable development in this Bill and the two NPPF debates; the debate seems to have gone on over the years. I was thinking back to the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, the Planning Act 2008, the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 and the Flood and Water Management Act 2010, when there was a willingness of the then Labour Ministers to think about what they could do about putting this into the Bill. In the end, however, they said, "No, it cannot be done, for all the reasons that have been put forward", and all the legal reasons put forward by their advisers. Having struggled against
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Will the outcomes be satisfactory? Will we look back on these debates and say, "Yes, the NPPF is okay, despite the inauspicious way in which it was launched upon the world and despite a lot of the unfortunate wording within it"? Will that all be sorted? Will we get a document that will work? All I can say is that I hope we will. We have a lot of good intentions from the Government and from Ministers, not least my noble friend the Minister here. We on the Liberal Democrat Benches will certainly be keeping up the pressure, and we simply ask them not to let us down. On that basis, I withdraw the amendment.
(1) The Secretary of State may by regulations specify transitional arrangements concerning the timetable and procedures involved in the introduction of changes to local development schemes and the preparation and adoption of local development documents.
(a) where changes are required by any enactment, and
(b) where changes are required following the issue of new or revised guidance by the Secretary of State."
The Bill is about to leave the House when we have no certainty that there will be any transitional provisions, let alone what those provisions might look like. The changes to our planning system, the demise of regional spatial strategies, the introduction of the duty to co-operate, the introduction of neighbourhood planning, together with the NPPF and the proposed presumption in favour of sustainable development, represent a major upheaval to the planning system. The key continuing feature-we support this-is the significance of the local development plan, which, subject to material considerations, should continue to determine which planning applications would be approved. However, we know that many local development plans are not up to date. Even if they were, there seems to be uncertainty as to whether the NPPF in its current form would itself cause all of them to be out of date.
The Minister, in our debate last week, contended not. I am bound to say that I believe that this is not a universal view. Is it accepted that the NPPF will introduce new policy which must be complied with? It
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As we made clear in last week's debate, we do not support or encourage local planning authorities to hold back on updating their local plans, but is it not the case that they are dealing with a moving target? There has been a very considerable response to the NPPF consultations, to which the Government have to give due consideration. It may not be until next April when we see the final version of the framework, with the prospect of no further consultation thereon, and probably no parliamentary process. It is acknowledged that the Government would be looking to fast-track a process for updating local plans, and for obtaining certificates of conformity, but this is not, surely, a total solution. Local planning authorities will not know what they have to conform with until they see the final version of the NPPF sometime next year. What assessment have the Government made of the planning inspectorate's capacity to cope with all of this? Indeed, what assessment have they made of local planning authorities' capacity to cope with this?
Is it not the case that the presumption in favour of sustainable development is supposed to be the stick that encourages local planning authorities to get local plans up to date, because if they do not, the national policy will be the framework for planning decisions. This carries the implication that if the stick is effective, local authorities will want to avoid the NPPF on its own providing the framework without the local plan-that is, development which an up-to-date local plan would not support could gain approval unless the adverse impacts of development would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits. Does the Minister accept that this could be the consequence of not having local plans up to date?
The Government are asking local planning authorities to ensure that their local plans are up to date when the NPPF, as drafted, includes new policy and the final form is unknown. Will an up-to-date plan not have to reflect the duty to co-operate? The draft NPPF is clear that local planning authorities will be expected to co-operate and to plan for issues with cross-boundary impacts. A demonstration of this will be required when local plans are submitted for examination. Will it be the case, therefore, that any plan which does not involve the duty to co-operate could be challenged as being not up to date?
The Government have emphasised the importance of the local plan but lack of fair transition arrangements will mean that it can be undermined and brushed aside at the start of the new planning arrangements. If
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Lord Best: My Lords, in Committee and on Report, I tabled amendments on transitional arrangements. I agree that it is imperative that local plans are in place as soon as possible but councils must have adequate time and resources to put in place sensible plans that conform to the new NPPF and ensure that local needs are met and local people have a say in the development that affects them. This will require clear transitional arrangements so that citizens, councils and developers have certainty about when and how the presumption of sustainable development will apply. Those areas that have invested a significant amount of time and resources in getting an up-to-date local plan in place prior to the changes should not be required to go through the process again or to face further delays. It is important that any process for registering conformity is light touch and swift.
I have been pleased to hear from the Royal Town Planning Institute that progress is being made in making transitional arrangements. I know that the Local Government Association is also part of the process of working with the Government on this. I feel sure that the Minister will be able to confirm that appropriate arrangements will be put in place quickly and I look forward to hearing her response to the sensible points raised by the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie.
Lord Greaves: My Lords, I congratulate the Labour Party on writing such a brilliant amendment. The interesting thing about transitional arrangements is that when the Bill came to your Lordships' House, they were not being talked about at all. The view was that in six months it could all be sorted out. The more it has been discussed in this House and with Ministers, the more it has become clear to everyone, including those of us who raised it tentatively at first, that it is an extremely important issue. Getting it right is crucial to the transition from the present system to the new system. The good news is that I believe that the Government, particularly the planning Ministers, now understand that. The bad news is that they have not yet produced a clear plan for that transition and how it will work. I believe that it is being thought about seriously across government.
Whether or not it should be in the NPPF is an interesting question. Originally, we were told that it
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I am about to read from a Pendle Council press release, not for special pleading but because I believe it is typical of the position that very many local planning authorities are in at the moment. I received the press release on Tuesday, headed "Six week consultation on Pendle's most important planning document". It says:
"It's the final chance for Pendle residents to comment on a document that will influence how Pendle changes in the years to come. A six-week consultation starts on Friday 28th October on the Core Strategy".
"'The Core Strategy will set out the overall approach for planning and development in Pendle for the next 15 years, so it's essential that residents make their views known before it's finalised ... This is your final chance to help shape the future of Pendle'".
Then I thought: this is all going ahead. The council quite rightly, I think, decided to continue going ahead with the production of its local plan as quickly as possible despite the presence of the Localism Bill casting a shadow over all these operations. This is really localising and turning into an anecdote some of the broad questions that the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, asked. Will Pendle Council and lots of other councils around the country have to start again when this Bill comes into effect? To what extent will they have to go
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I think that this is my last speech on this Bill. There may be sighs of relief around the House. I have already thanked the Minister, her colleagues and the civil servants on the Bill team for their great kindness and for the assistance that I and my colleagues have had. I also want to thank people around the House. I thank the noble Lords, Lord McKenzie and Lord Beecham, on the Labour Front Bench for their very sensible and constructive approach to the Bill. I may be doing severe damage to their career prospects within the Labour Party by saying that, but I think it needs to be said. We have worked with them and discussed things with them. We have not always agreed, but the amount of co-operation that there has been around the House on the Bill has been to the advantage of the House and to the advantage of the Government in that when the Bill leaves very shortly now, it will be a very much better Bill than when it came.
Lord Howarth of Newport: My Lords, it is a great strength of the Government's policy that it commits us to plan-led and sustainable development. It follows from that that it would be extremely unfortunate if there were to be possibly a long interval-a black hole-in which possibly half of planning authorities, maybe even all, did not have a valid plan. During that period there would be real danger of abuse and bad, inappropriate development gaining permission, and perhaps even being built, which would contradict the Government's proper objectives. Unless the Minister is able this evening to give clear-cut reassurance that there will be firm and legally binding transitional arrangements, I fear there could be consequences that the Government do not want. I also fear that there will be needless public anxiety-or, possibly, even justified public anxiety-and it would be sensible and helpful if the Minister could finally allay our anxieties on this point.
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I am not going to be able to reassure everyone on everything. When we discussed this in the past, I pointed out the Government's concern that there had been transitional arrangements on previous occasions which had resulted in only 40 councils having local plans, with some of the remainder being on tap and others having some being prepared. Transitional arrangements are a bit of a worry. In response to a question today, I said to the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, that this is very much in our minds and I can confirm that that is the situation. We are looking very carefully at transitional arrangements, particularly in respect of the analysis of the NPPF and what that will throw up. We have listened also to the views of the Local Government Association and others and will be taking them into account.
We place an enormous amount of importance on up-to-date local plans and we will put in place transitional arrangements that advantage plan making to reflect the fact that the national planning policy framework is all about putting local communities in control of planning decisions through their local plan. As I have said previously, the framework is policy not legislation and legislative measures are unnecessary as the Secretary of State can deliver transitional arrangements more appropriately through policy or guidance. That clearly will be part of the discussions and talks we are having about how much of that is required.
It would also be helpful if I made it absolutely clear that the status of local plans will not change when the Bill is enacted and the final national planning policy framework comes into force. Local plans will continue to be part of the development plan and the plan will remain the first point of reference for decisions on planning applications and appeals. It is, of course, for local councils to decide when they should update their local plans-it is entirely a matter for them and their communities-but it is important that we help them through the process. We are supporting councils by simplifying the process of preparing plans. This will help provide flexibility so that councils can concentrate on issues that matter to them and their communities.
On the question about the Planning Inspectorate, we are working closely with it to make sure that the examination process can be quicker and that, if necessary, only parts of a local plan need to be reconsidered. It is a flexible arrangement and we are sure that the Planning Inspectorate will be able to help with that appropriately.
As we have discussed before, if there are policies and regional strategies that councils wish to incorporate in local plans they can do so by undertaking a review focusing on those policies. Councils can also continue to draw on evidence that informed the preparation of regional strategies to support local plan policies, supplemented, as needed, by up-to-date local evidence. The availability of an existing body of evidence will also help councils through the local plan review process and, consequently, transition.
The NPPF offers councils the opportunity to seek a "certificate of conformity" with national policy which will help them identify which of their existing local policies are consistent with the framework. We expect that many elements of local plans will conform with the direction of national policy. Where issues are indentified, councils should attempt to address these through reviews undertaken as quickly as possible. We will, of course, be considering any representations made on this point in the current consultation.
Lord Greaves: My Lords, I think there is an important point here. Will the certificate of conformity be available to planning authorities that have an approved local plan that is waiting for inspection before it is inspected, or will it be only for local plans that have already been adopted?
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I thought the noble Lord had had his last word on this Bill, so I am a little
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I hope that I have made it clear that the transitional arrangements are still under consideration but that there will be transitional arrangements. I have been asked whether there will be guidance from the Secretary of State. It will set out as clearly as possible what the transitional arrangements are and any other procedural issues.
Let me conclude by reiterating-this is not my last word, unfortunately-the importance that this Government place on local plans and the need for effective arrangements, delivered through policy or guidance, to manage transition. I want to offer a firm reassurance that the Government recognise the importance of this, as I said earlier today, and will ensure that this is addressed alongside the revisions that are made to the NPPF itself. We are of course looking very closely at all the suggestions that have been made about transition during the consultation process.
We recognise there are genuine issues to be addressed about the status of local plans during the transitional period. I hope that I have addressed some of these tonight, but we will also be considering them further. With these reassurances I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw the amendment.
Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I thank the Minister for as clear an indication as she is able to give about transition. I take some comfort from that. Whether it ends up in the NPPF or in guidance is not the most important issue as long as it is there and it is effective.
I thank other noble Lords who have supported and argued in favour of transition, including my noble friend Lord Howarth and the noble Lords, Lord Best and Lord Greaves. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, for his kind words-this must not get too much like a love-in-which we ought to reciprocate. This has been an interesting experience for those of us who are new to planning legislation. It has been an intriguing position. I used to think that Luton was the centre of the universe, but I understand Pendle now may begin to be a bit of a rival-perhaps we will pay a visit one day to see.
(2) In section 128(3) (order authorising compulsory acquisition of local authority or statutory undertakers' land subject to special parliamentary procedure if representation made by the authority or statutory undertakers and not withdrawn)-
(a) after paragraph (a) (but before the "and" at the end of that paragraph) insert-
"(aa) the representation contains an objection to the compulsory acquisition of the land,", and
(b) in paragraph (b) (condition that representation has not been withdrawn) for "representation" substitute "objection".
(a) after paragraph (a) (but before the "and" at the end of that paragraph) insert-
"(aa) the representation contains an objection to the compulsory acquisition of the land,", and
(b) in paragraph (b) (condition that representation has not been withdrawn) for "representation" substitute "objection"."
Earl Attlee: My Lords, the need for this amendment emerged following the first decision under the regime a little over a week ago when it became clear that the Planning Act 2008 contains a drafting flaw that could have serious consequences for the regime if not corrected. Under compulsory purchase law, local authorities, statutory undertakers and the National Trust have special protection from proposals to compulsorily acquire their land. Where they object to a compulsory purchase order, and do not withdraw that objection, the order is subject to special parliamentary procedure-an involved, complex and often lengthy process which can add six to nine months to the timetable.
The first decision under the regime has demonstrated that the Planning Act 2008 has inadvertently widened the grounds on which special parliamentary procedure is engaged. Any representation by a relevant body on any aspect of the development consent order not limited to compulsory acquisition can trigger SPP. This means that many more projects will need to go through the SPP than do at present, with implications for growth and jobs. Government Amendment 53, therefore, seeks to correct the drafting of the Planning Act to bring it into line with compulsory purchase law as it operates under the town and country planning system.
Let me be absolutely clear on this for the benefit of the House. We are absolutely not seeking to lessen the important protections for land belonging to those bodies, and indeed this amendment would not prevent the National Trust, for example, from invoking SPP where a development consent order would grant consent for its land to be compulsorily acquired. The amendment seeks only to correct an error in the 2008 Act, thereby ensuring that the compulsory purchase regime is consistent across both the 2008 Act and the major infrastructure planning regimes. I beg to move.
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for introducing his amendment and allowing me to speak to my three amendments in this grouping. He has agreed to respond after this, and it is very welcome that we can do it in this way.
I shall just make a very small comment on government Amendment 53. While I welcome the amendment-it is good to see that the Government recognise that some changes have to be made to the Planning Act in this regard-it does nothing for the point that I shall
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I turn to the amendments in my name. The House will recall that, both in Committee and on Report, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, my noble and learned friend Lord Boyd and I moved, and spoke in support of, a number of quite technical arguments, which we thought were pretty important to the Bill, designed to make a number of changes to the provisions of the Planning Act 2008 dealing with the new regime for considering national infrastructure projects, which are currently operated by the Infrastructure Planning Commission. The Planning Act is a distinct improvement on the many regimes that we had before for the types of infrastructure that it replaces, and I think that it is settling down.
My concern, which I expressed previously and will have to return to shortly tonight, is that this Bill should have gone further and made more changes to the 2008 Act that are either a necessary or logical consequence of the IPC's abolition and the return of decisions to Ministers or are simply required to make the 2008 Act work better. I have been briefed in particular by the National Infrastructure Planning Association, which has people with great experience in this field. I welcome the Government's intention to keep the new regime under review, but it would be helpful to hear from the Minister tonight a little more as to quite what they are going to review and when.
That is good. In the impact assessment for the Bill's provisions on major infrastructure projects, published in January this year, we are told that, in relation to the policy behind the preferred options, which is now reflected in the Bill,
On 19 October, only a couple of weeks ago, the European Commission launched two new proposed regulations to address this: the "Connecting Europe Facility", which is about to spend €50 billion on all
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The Government will have to change regulations or legislation to allow these internationally significant infrastructure projects-which are apparently called ISIPs, as opposed to NSIPs or something-that will sit above, or instead of, the Planning Act regime for nationally significant projects. There are various processes and timetables set out for this and the pre-application consultation requirements are quite prescriptive. I understand that all these are required to be in place by 1 September 2013, which is only nine months after the regulation is due to come into force. It would be interesting to hear from the Minister how the Government intend to do this and make sure that the money being offered from the EU is available.
I am grateful to the Minister for arranging a meeting between his officials and myself and the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, between Report and now. We had a very useful meeting and I take the opportunity to thank Ministers and officials for the very helpful discussions. We should have had the meeting some time ago, but we did not-as was said at Report. However, I hope that, even so, we can make progress.
Turning to the amendments themselves, I should say that Amendment 87 relates to the Minister's amendment about development consent orders and the need to have special parliamentary procedures where there are objections. As the Minister said, it could take about nine months extra if one had to go through these procedures. I still wonder why we have to go through these procedures when there should be a single consents regime with a harmonised set of requirements and procedures, which I call a one-stop shop. I compare the complexity and difficulty of this with the transport and works orders and the harbours orders.
On Report, the Minister referred to the Planning Act drawing on long-standing and well-established protections from compulsory purchase orders for certain types of land. He thought that our proposals then would significantly weaken them, but I do not accept his reference to a two-tier system-why it should go further than happens with the TWA and the harbours order. The House will recall that the only project so far to be approved by the IPC, which is Covanta's proposed incinerator in Bedfordshire, will now have to be approved by this House and the other House under SPP. A lot of people may not like these incinerators but that has gone through a process and, again, will be subject to six to nine months' extra delay. I hope that the Minister can indicate that these issues will be reviewed in the light of experience.
The next amendment in the group, Amendment 88, refers to the regulations made under Section 150, which deal with construction-related consents in England. Again, we discussed this quite thoroughly on Report-so much for having a one-stop shop, as there are still up to 42 other consents required from regulators in England and a further 36 in Wales. I still have not discovered
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Finally, on Amendment 89, again, we have discussed the creation of criminal offences in some detail but it is still a worry that the types of offences which can be introduced through this process are not sufficient for the types of projects and offences which might be required. Again, that provides a much greater limit than the Transport and Works Act orders do, which is why I wanted to see whether we could include railways and construction in tidal waters. One example which springs to mind is the question of trespass during construction, which could well occur on the high-speed line-assuming that it gets built-or on some of the offshore wind farms, if people can get around there. Trespass is a very difficult thing to stop if you do not have the right regulations, and it would be good to see whether the Minister would be able to extend the existing criminal offences to the two issues in this amendment.
To sum up, we have made progress on these issues in discussions on the Bill but we have certainly not gone as far as I would have liked to see. However, is the Minister prepared to tell us a little more about the issues that I have raised and about three things in particular? First, there is the impact assessment on how the Planning Act 2008 has worked in respect of projects through the IPC and its successor, which I believe is supposed to be there in 2014. Secondly, there is how this connecting Europe facility will work and whether the Government are keen that projects here should get the extra €9 billion that will be available for energy alone. Finally, can I press him to have an earlier review and a progress report to reduce significantly those 42 consents, plus the 36 in Wales?
Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, spoke to his amendment so comprehensively that I want to add only one point. As my noble friend on the Front Bench indicated, the Government's own amendment came to light only a week ago. I should like to say a very warm thank you to him and to the officials who recognised so swiftly that there had to be a change to the 2008 Act to prevent quite unnecessary use of the special parliamentary procedure, or SPP.
I endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, said: there are still too many examples where such procedures will or could need to be invoked. If anybody makes an objection-for instance, where one is dealing with local authority land-and that objection is sustained, it will have to go through this special parliamentary procedure. While the decisions on major infrastructure projects were being taken by the Infrastructure Planning Commission, a quango, that may have been a necessary
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Like the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, I would very much welcome an indication from my noble friends on the Front Bench that they will look at this again. I understand that, in the short time that we have had to deal with this-it came up only on Report in this House-it has been difficult for Ministers to go as far as we would perhaps like. However, with the review coming up, there seems to be an opportunity to have another look at this so that it gets somewhat nearer the one-stop shop that was originally offered by the Ministers in the previous Government as being the major benefit of the new Infrastructure Planning Commission. It most manifestly is not a one-stop shop at the moment. Maybe it never could be a one-stop shop but it could certainly have fewer than the 42 consents that are necessary for these major projects. I hope my noble friends will be able to give us some reassurance that they are sympathetic to this and will, in the review, look at it very carefully with a view to coming somewhat nearer the original objective that was held out to Parliament when the 2008 Act was introduced.
Lord Boyd of Duncansby: My Lords, I declare an interest as a Scottish solicitor who is registered as a foreign lawyer in England and Wales. I also have an interest in planning. I thank the noble Earl for bringing forward Amendment 53, which deals with a real anomaly. I also support my noble friend on Amendments 87 and 88. Much of what I would say has already been said, but I shall just add a couple of points.
On the special parliamentary procedure, on Report my noble friend Lord McKenzie expressed some reservations about the abolition of what was perhaps seen as a protection. However, the point that my noble friend Lord Berkeley has made is that it is a heavier regime than that which pertained under the Transport and Works Act and the Harbours Act. Therefore, it seems curious that we have made the development consent orders regime more onerous than it was under those two Acts. I do not suppose that my noble friend will press his amendment tonight. However, I hope that the Minister will confirm that the operation of the special parliamentary procedure will be part of the review. Perhaps that will give us an opportunity to look at it and reassure those who are sceptical about removing the protection, giving them some comfort that the protections will still be there in the role of the Secretary of State and his accountability to Parliament.
Amendment 88 would do away with the large number of consenting regimes that are still in place, or at least significantly reduce them. It is not the case that doing away with these consenting regimes somehow removes protections, because protective provisions will be put into the development consent order. That is the crucial thing, and there are plenty of examples, again under transport and works orders, of protective regimes being put into place. I gave an example earlier in the proceedings of this House.
We have to strive to get a one-stop shop. If there is bureaucratic inertia to addressing this issue, then it is up to Ministers to argue the case in government against those who are suggesting that we cannot do anything about that. We need to get a more streamlined process, so that development is not held up simply because we have to go through yet another procedure. I welcome the forthcoming review, and I hope that will give us an opportunity to clear up some of these anomalies that have been left over from previous systems and planning regimes.
Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I shall be brief. I congratulate my noble friend Lord Berkeley for spotting a difficulty and the Government for responding with their Amendment 53, which seeks to deal with that. My noble friend Lord Berkeley, my noble and learned friend Lord Boyd and the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, have raised a number of profound and important issues about how the new system is working, the need for a one-stop shop, the connecting Europe facility and how we will take advantage of that, and the special parliamentary procedures, but I am not sure that we are going to solve all those issues tonight. I look forward to what the Minister has to say, but if he is able to confirm that there is a review under way, that seems to be the arena in which these very important issues can be picked up and addressed.
Earl Attlee: My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords who have spoken to this group of amendments for their contribution to the debate on these important issues. I thought we had an excellent debate on Report, and I am grateful to the noble Lords for their time at the meeting we had a week ago to further discuss these matters. I am happy to adhere to correct procedure, and that is to allow noble Lords to move the amendments before giving a response.
The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, referred to developments in the EU; this is developing policy and I will have to write to him on that point. Noble Lords have already explained the amendments in this group at some length, but I will briefly summarise. Amendment 87 would remove Sections 128 to 132 of the 2008 Act, which made provisions relating to the compulsory acquisition of special types of land. Amendment 88 seeks to amend Section 150 of the Act, so that it applies only in relation to land in Wales. Amendment 89 would extend the existing provisions of the Localism Bill in relation to the creation of offences in a development consent order so that offences could be created in respect of railways and off-shore development in addition to those already provided for within the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, gave the example of trespass during construction. I have listened carefully to what noble Lords have said and I agree that these matters need further consideration. These are complex issues and we will need to think on them carefully in the light of the new regime's vanguard cases.
The major infrastructure planning regime is in its infancy. The first decision has very recently been made and it will take some time to assess whether the regime is operating as intended. The noble Lord noted the
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I note also what noble Lords have said about further streamlining the regime. My department intends to engage the other key departments over the next 12 months in discussions on whether it might be both desirable and practical to consider a wider range of secondary consents as part of the regime than is currently the case, looking in particular at the consents prescribed under Section 150. We will be able to report our progress on this once the process has concluded.
I am pleased that we have been able to have a full discussion of these matters, and I have listened to what the noble Lords have said. We will continue to consider the matters we have debated here today, both within Government and with the various bodies that have contributed to this discussion. I hope that on that basis the noble Lord will not move his amendments.
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, Amendments 54, 55 and 56 are technical amendments that ensure, in line with our original policy intention, that where a fixed-term assured shorthold tenancy is demoted, the tenant can be given another fixed-term tenancy upon successful completion of the demotion period.
Without these amendments, such tenants would automatically become periodic assured "lifetime" tenants on successful completion of the demotion period. That would clearly be unfair-in effect, a reward for behaving anti-socially in the past-and mean that private registered providers would in practice be unlikely to demote fixed-term tenancies, rather than simply seeking to evict for anti-social behaviour. These amendments ensure that private registered providers of social housing who demote fixed term assured tenants are in the same position as local authorities who demote flexible tenants. I beg to move.
Lord Kennedy of Southwark: My Lords, I accept that these government amendments are to correct a drafting error. I am pleased that someone spotted it before the Bill left your Lordships' House. Well done to whoever did that. It would be regrettable if we had
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(a) section 20B applies to an assured shorthold tenancy of a dwelling-house in England ("the demoted tenancy"),
(b) the landlord is a private registered provider of social housing,
(c) the demoted tenancy was created by an order under section 6A made after the coming into force of section 162(2) of the Localism Act 2011,
(d) the assured tenancy that was terminated by that order was an assured shorthold tenancy that, whether or not it was a fixed term tenancy when terminated by the order, was granted for a term certain of not less than two years,
(e) apart from subsection (2), the demoted tenancy would cease to be an assured shorthold tenancy by virtue of section 20B(2) or (4), and
(f) the landlord has served a notice within subsection (3) on the tenant before the demoted tenancy ceases to be an assured shorthold tenancy by virtue of section 20B(2) or (4).
(2) The demoted tenancy does not cease to be an assured shorthold tenancy by virtue of section 20B(2) or (4), and at the time when it would otherwise cease to be an assured shorthold tenancy by virtue of section 20B(2) to (4)-
(a) it becomes an assured shorthold tenancy which is a fixed term tenancy for a term certain, and
(b) section 20B ceases to apply to it.
(a) state that, on ceasing to be a demoted assured shorthold tenancy, the tenancy will become an assured shorthold tenancy which is a fixed term tenancy for a term certain of the length specified in the notice,
(b) specify a period of at least two years as the length of the term of the tenancy, and
(c) set out the other express terms of the tenancy.
(a) the length of its term is that specified in the notice under subsection (3), and
(b) its other express terms are those set out in the notice."
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, our reforms to the complaints system for social housing are designed to promote the resolution of complaints as far as possible at the most local level, and to encourage a system where ideally the ombudsman is brought in only where local resolution does not prove possible. At Report, amendments were tabled by several noble Lords that would have modified our proposals by introducing a so-called dual-track approach to the process for making complaints to the Housing Ombudsman. As I made clear to the House, the Government's view is that this would fail to deliver a sufficiently localist approach.
The noble Lords, Lord Greaves and Lord Tope, proposed that a compromise should be considered. They recognised the value of local complaint resolution but were concerned that having gone through the local route tenants must ultimately be able to secure redress where they receive a poor service.
With Amendment 58, the Government are now proposing a way forward that retains the localist approach but, in specified circumstances, allows the tenant direct access to the ombudsman. We hope that this gives assurance to noble Lords that we have acted upon their concerns through allowing a degree of flexibility into our proposals that will be of further benefit to the tenant.
Under these proposals, tenants will retain the option to go directly to the Housing Ombudsman if eight weeks have elapsed since the end of the landlord's internal complaints process, or if a local representative explicitly declines to refer the complaint to the ombudsman or agrees that the tenant may approach the ombudsman directly.
The eight-week exception would assist tenants in cases where, for example, the local representative simply did not respond to their complaint. We propose that the time period for this condition would begin at the end of the landlord's complaints procedure, not when the tenant first approached a local representative. This is so that a clear audit trail exists should the case eventually go to the ombudsman. Starting the clock at this point will make the system straightforward and minimise burdens on tenants.
The second exception is designed to address the concern that a local representative could simply prevent a tenant securing redress by refusing to refer the complaint to the ombudsman, despite the fact that the tenant had attempted to resolve the complaint locally. In most cases, we would expect a local representative to deal with the case or to refer it to the ombudsman, but we recognise that there may be occasions, such as where there is a conflict of interest, where it would be preferable for tenants to have direct access to the ombudsman. For this reason, we wish to provide that a designated person may agree that a complainant can take their complaint to the ombudsman directly.
Amendment 60 tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, would alter the first of our proposed exceptions by providing that tenants may access the ombudsman
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Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town: My Lords, I wish to speak to Amendment 60 and, in doing so, I welcome enormously the amendments tabled by the Minister on behalf of the Government. I warmly welcome what she has put forward concerning the preference for having things dealt with, if at all possible, locally and as soon as possible. If it does not do his future career a lot of harm, perhaps I may associate the noble Lord, Lord Newton of Braintree, with the thanks to the Government for moving on this. He cannot be in his place tonight but I am afraid that the two of us are at one in thanking the Government, which I think puts us both in very bad odour.
What the Government have done has been welcomed very widely. I know that the British and Irish Ombudsman Association has supported this final retention of a citizen's right to direct access. Similarly, the National Housing Federation supports the line which enables MPs and councillors to be involved as the first route at the discretion of the complainant but allows the fallback position. Likewise, the Law Commission prefers a system where the complaints can go either through a local representative or to an ombudsman. I hope that the Government know that tenants are similarly very happy with the new amendments, under which they can either deal directly with their councillor or go to the ombudsman. The organisation Which? similarly prefers the choice of the local route but, if not, then the fallback position if for whatever reason the complainant does not want to involve their MP or councillor. As the Minister said, the reasons for that could well be a conflict of interest: the councillor may be the provider; the MP may already have heard the case in their surgery; or the MP may know the local council official involved. The only other reason that has been mentioned is that there could be a threat to the tenant's privacy where there are issues that they would perhaps not want to share with an elected official. The only other point when somebody may want to go to the ombudsman, albeit after the delay, would be when an elected representative perhaps would be rarely accustomed to awarding redress and would not have the authority to enforce any award.
The way in which this has been tabled by the Government is to be greatly welcomed. It clarifies the current position of the Housing Ombudsman because the scheme requires complainants to have completed any internal complaints procedure with their own provider before going to the ombudsman. Only in very exceptional circumstances, such as oppression or something like unreasonable delay, would the Housing Ombudsman take a case before it had been through the provider's in-house procedure. That is also helpful in the wording of the Government's amendments. All the other organisations similarly take that line.
I am delighted that the wording allows local access or the fall back after eight weeks. It is only that that brings up my very small amendment. I have no difficulties with the idea of some delay after the internal procedure is over for the complainant to take stock and consider whether a complaint to the Housing Ombudsman is
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Lord Tope: My Lords, as the noble Baroness has just said, the Minister has moved a long way since we last debated this. We all accepted the strong desirability of resolving these matters locally whenever possible, but we realised during or even before that debate that it had an unintended consequence of giving the designated person the right of veto. I do not think that that was what the Government intended and I am pleased that they have recognised that, and that it has been removed. Once again, I thank the Minister for not only listening but for acting. At this late hour at this very late stage of the Bill I do not propose to debate further whether it should be six or eight weeks. I am just glad that we have got to where we have.
Lord Best: Once again the House of Lords consideration of this Bill has led to a really sensible change to the legislation. I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, alongside the noble Lord, Lord Newton-I have supported these amendments all the way-on persuading the Minister who I know has handled this with great distinction. On behalf of all the organisations which have been extremely worried about this and all the people whose complaints will now be better handled, I thank the Minister very much.
Lord Kennedy of Southwark: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for moving the amendments. They are a work in progress. I also thank my noble friend Lady Hayter for her amendment which would reduce the period before referral from eight to six weeks. I hope that the Government will accept my noble friend's proposal.
I never really got to the bottom of why it was such an issue for the Government. Looking back to the debate on Report, it was not only Members from the Labour Benches who expressed such concerns but Members from all sides. I have always thought that the democratic filter would do nothing to improve the process of enabling tenants to resolve their complaints. The Government's proposals allow a tenant with a complaint direct access to the ombudsman after going through a process or on the refusal of a designated person to send it on.
When the noble Baroness responds to the debate, will she say how the ombudsmen satisfy themselves that either of the two conditions for direct referral have been met? I hope that that will be something very simple, such as the copy of a letter or an e-mail confirming that the complainant has gone through the process and the period of time has elapsed, or the refusal of a designated person, as I do not want to see added burdens on the complainant.
At this point, I would like to add my thanks to the Minister, other noble Lords on all sides of the House and the Bill team as we draw to a close on this Bill. This is the first Bill on which I have contributed to your Lordships' House's discussions from the Dispatch Box. It has been an interesting learning curve for me. I hope, in particular, that I have been of assistance to my noble friends Lord McKenzie of Luton and Lord Beecham. I again thank the Minister for bringing these amendments back. They are very welcome.
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, we thought carefully about the time limit and believe that eight weeks strikes the right balance. It allows sufficient time for a complaint to reach the local representative and for the local representative to make representations to the landlord and achieve a successful resolution to the complaint without imposing an unnecessary or onerous delay on the tenant. It might help the House if I unpick this a little further.
First, as the clock starts at the end of the landlord's process in our proposal, we would expect the tenant to require a little time to forward the complaint to the local representative, and we make allowance for this. Secondly, it is important to recognise that in most cases the local representative will want to review the case materials before going further and will possibly want to discuss them with the tenant. It is key to our aim of getting local representatives more involved in housing complaints that they are given the space and opportunity to do that. If, on the other hand, the local representative concludes that the complaint cannot be resolved locally, they do not need to wait for the eight weeks to elapse. They can at any stage refer the complaint to the ombudsman or agree to the tenant accessing the ombudsman directly. We believe that we should trust local representatives on the ground to make this judgment and to provide effective support and advocacy on behalf of tenants.
I was asked how the ombudsman would know that the tests had been satisfied before the matter was referred to him. I understand that this is a matter for the ombudsman, who plans to consult over the next year on a revised statutory scheme that will set out these matters. I hope that that will enable the noble Baroness not to move her amendment.
(a) the social landlord has procedures for considering complaints against the social landlord,
(b) the matter that forms the subject of the complaint has been submitted to those procedures,
(c) those procedures have been exhausted, and
(d) the complaint has been made to the ombudsman after the end of the eight weeks beginning with the day on which those procedures were exhausted.
(a) the ombudsman is satisfied that a designated person-
(i) has refused to refer the complaint to a housing ombudsman under an approved scheme, or
(ii) has agreed to the complaint being made otherwise than by way of a referral by a designated person, and
(b) the refusal, or agreement, is in writing or the ombudsman is satisfied that it has been confirmed in writing.
Earl Attlee: My Lords, I shall also speak to Amendments 62 to 67. These amendments are in response to two amendments tabled by my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding and the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie of Luton, on Report: Amendments 96 and 103. I know that my noble friend Lord True also has an interest in these matters. Those amendments related to obligations on the mayor to publish his reasons for not accepting comments made at consultation where he proposes to bring forward a mayoral development corporation. I am happy to say that we have looked carefully at the case put forward by the noble Lords for amending the Bill and propose to introduce the following changes.
Amendment 61 requires the mayor to publish his reasons for not accepting comments made by an affected borough where those comments relate to the mayor's proposals for a mayoral development area. Amendment 62 requires the mayor to publish his reasons for not accepting comments made by an affected borough where those comments relate to an MDC's proposed planning functions.
Amendments 64 and 65 are minor and technical relating to Clause 203 and put right minor inaccuracies arising from changes to the Bill. Amendment 66 would require the mayor to publish his reasons for not accepting comments made by an affected borough, where those comments relate to an MDC's proposals for non-domestic rate relief. Amendment 67 defines "affected local authority".
Together these amendments would put an affected borough on the same footing as the London Assembly with the regard to the duty on the mayor to respond directly to any concerns it may raise. I trust they address my noble friend's concerns. I beg to move.
Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, of course, I am very grateful indeed to my noble friends for having, at this late stage, agreed these amendments. I cannot do better than quote a note I received only this morning from London Councils. It states that this is a notable change in the Bill and one that borough councils will very much welcome in years to come. I would endorse that very warmly. I thank my noble friends.
"In paragraph (c) "affected local authority" means a person specified by section 196(4)(d), (e), (f) or (g) in relation to the area."
"In paragraph (c) "affected local authority" means a person specified by section 196(4)(d), (e), (f) or (g) in relation to the area."
5A In section 49(1)(de) of the Audit Commission Act 1998 (disclosure of information by Commission or auditor etc for purposes of functions of ethical standards officer or Public Services Ombudsman for Wales) omit "an ethical standards officer or".Data Protection Act 1998 (c. 29)
(a) in subsection (7) omit paragraph (b), and
(b) in subsection (8)(b) omit ", or to an ethical standards officer,"."
Your Lordships agreed to government amendments to provide that a council tax referendum could not be triggered solely due to expenditure that had been
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Lord Beecham: My Lords, these amendments come in Schedule 5 which deals with referendums, including council tax referendums. I apologise at this late hour for raising an issue which has only just come to light in relation to council tax referendums; that is, a communication from the Electoral Commission- received extremely late in the day, it must be said-raising concerns about the procedures. I had a word with the noble Earl previously under the misapprehension that the noble Baroness would be replying to this amendment. I am not asking for a definitive answer tonight, because I do not know whether the noble Earl has actually seen the communication from the Electoral Commission. However, it was recommending that the proposed arrangements that any council tax referendums should commence from next year-Spring 2012-should not take place and that referendums should not be required to be held until 2013. There has been a principle, apparently accepted for several years now, that regulations including conduct rules should be clear no later than six months in advance of the date of the first poll to which they will apply. It is clearly of the view that that will not be possible in this case, as it has seen only a very small part of the draft secondary legislation which will be required for referendums. It has not seen details specifically for these referendums. There are a number of factors, including the fact that there might be multiple referendums held because of the variety of precepting authorities which would be potentially involved in the issue of such referendums as and when these might be held.
It makes the helpful suggestion that we might table amendments, but of course we are out of time to table amendments. It raises questions about how the Electoral Commission works and I know my noble friend Lord Kennedy has already raised questions about that. However, it makes an additional point that has been touched on in previous discussions on the funding of referendums and whether the rules about donations and campaign spending and so on ought to be brought into play to deal with these referendums.
It is very late. I am not expecting the Minister to give a definitive answer but I would be grateful if he could assure the House that these matters will be considered. Obviously, I expect the Government to take seriously the views of the Electoral Commission. In practice, I suspect that next year there will not be many councils that, given the general state of play, will
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Earl Attlee: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, does not disappoint me. I have read the letter from the Electoral Commission carefully. All organisations would love to have the maximum possible time to implement changes, and I understand that these are complex changes. However, council tax payers expect to have protection against excessive council tax increases. That is what we are delivering through the Localism Bill. We have a duty to consult the Electoral Commission. We are fulfilling that duty to make sure that the right processes are in place. However, the Chancellor recently announced a council tax freeze in England for 2012-13. We expect most if not all authorities to take up the freeze, in which case there will be no need for referendums next year, as the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, graciously recognised.
The Government intend these provisions to become effective from 2012-13 onwards, subject to the Bill receiving Royal Assent in sufficient time. We will of course reflect on what the Electoral Commission has said as part of our ongoing engagement with it. Noble Lords should also remember that the Secretary of State will set the excessiveness level, which will have to be approved by another place, and if necessary a local authority can be put into a special category if it has any specific problems. With that, I beg to move.
"( ) that the draft order is made by the authority, or"
Lord Best: My Lords, I am very pleased to be moving and speaking to the very last amendments to this Bill, after our many months of discussing it. This gives me the chance to say to the Minister, to the Ministers who have supported her, and indeed to the government Ministers in another place, that this Bill has been enormously improved during its House of Lords stages. Indeed, the key role of this House in scrutinising legislation has been wonderfully illustrated by the progress of the Localism Bill.
I have been given a list of 10 major issues that were originally of considerable concern to the Local Government Association, for example, and on which that body, representing local authorities up and down the land, now feels reassured and to a very large degree satisfied with the legislation as it now appears. The same kind of list could have been devised by a number of external agencies, with the same satisfaction rating at the end of that. It has been a long slog, with meetings all through the Summer Recess, and Ministers have worked incredibly hard. The outcome is a Bill that has been transformed. Both thanks and congratulations are in order, very much including congratulations to the opposition Front Bench, and, if I may say so, to the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie of Luton, in particular, who handled this process with great care, courtesy and skill to very great effect, and to the efforts of external bodies that have made their representations to us so helpfully and so effectively.
Turning, therefore, to these last amendments, and slashing my speaking notes by at least two-thirds, let me say that considerable progress has already been made in allaying fears about the subject of these amendments: referenda on neighbourhood plans. I have been concerned that the excellent efforts envisaged by the Bill to see a whole change of culture and attitudes toward development through locally driven planning processes could be sabotaged by divisive local referenda after a neighbourhood plan has been painstakingly devised. Having met the good people in one of the front-runner pilot schemes for neighbourhood planning, I was greatly impressed by the hard work and local sensitivity that goes into mediating and negotiating a new plan in order to balance all the local interests and opinions. However, I have noted the potential danger that a referendum, after all the consultative meetings, the trade-offs and the intense discussions, could mean all this hard work being for nothing.
I can see that if a neighbourhood plan is opposed by the local planning authority-the elected local authority-it ought to be tested through the mechanism of a referendum. However, if the council itself supports the local group, the parish council or the neighbourhood forum, then, as my previous amendments have tried to establish, there should be no question of opening it up to a local referendum that could lead to neighbours falling out and communities being divided, and that could undermine the good work of the local people who have struggled to bring it all together. A referendum also involves the council in considerable expense.
I have received considerable reassurance on this issue, and getting the position clearly on the record this evening will be extremely helpful to worried parish councils and potential neighbourhood fora everywhere. My amendments tonight will, I hope, enable the Minister to confirm the following. Where the local authority and parish council agree on the proposals in a draft neighbourhood plan or order, there is no need for a referendum. The neighbourhood plan policies can be taken forward by the local authority as a development plan document, which is subject to independent examination but not referendum.
The permissions in the neighbourhood development order can be taken forward as a local development order, which is subject to neither examination nor referendum. This means that the local authority can take forward planning proposals that the neighbourhood forum or parish council has produced in partnership with the wider community and the local authority, without needing to hold a referendum into those proposals. Confirmation from the Minister for this interpretation of the position would be the final bit of good news after the Government's extremely positive approach to the whole progress of this Bill.
Lord Tope: My Lords, perhaps I may take this opportunity to echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Best, at the beginning of his moving the amendment and echo also the words of my noble friend Lord Greaves in thanking very much the Ministers and the Bill team for the very constructive way in which this Bill's very lengthy process has been approached. As I understand it, we are now sending something like 100 pages of amendments back to the Commons. What is more notable is that all those amendments have been passed without the need for a vote; in other words, we have truly reached consensus. Of course, like all consensus, it has not achieved everything that each of us would have wished but, without any doubt, we are sending back a very much better Bill than the one we received back in June.
Tribute has also been paid to the opposition Front Bench. I do not know whether the noble Lords, Lord McKenzie and Lord Beecham, had any further hopes for their future careers but, should anyone read the late-night proceedings in Hansard, we have probably now effectively ended their prospects. I pay tribute to them for the constructive way in which they have approached the Bill. It reflects a view with which all of us started; that we were here not to play games or to score points off each other-some of us have known each other quite long enough to know exactly how to score points if we were so minded-but for the genuine interests of better local government and local democracy, which I think we have achieved.
My final thanks are to the Liberal Democrat team on this Bench. Recently, my noble friend Lord Greaves in private referred to my role as being that of team manager. By being the team manager I have been very much more fortunate than much better known team managers in having, certainly, an all-star team but without the all-star egos and tantrums that go with it. I put on record my thanks to my colleagues for the very effective way in which we have approached this
31 Oct 2011 : Column 1108
Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, this is the last time I shall speak on the Bill. Perhaps I may start by expressing support for the noble Lord, Lord Best, and his inquiries. I hope that he will receive the confirmations that he sought, certainly on the basis of the helpful background note that we received from the Government today, which confirms that proceeding via development plan documents and local development orders would obviate the need for referendums.
I should like to offer my thanks to several people. Certainly, I thank the Bill Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, and her team, the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, and the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, who has gone on to other things. I know what hard work it can be working on a Bill and what a tremendous amount of effort has been put in. It has been a listening team, which has boded well for the outcome of the Bill. I thank also the noble Lord, Lord Tope, the manager, and his team, who have had a tremendous input into the Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Tope, made the point that a substantial number of changes have been made to the Bill. I have not worked on a Bill that has changed quite so much during its passage through your Lordships' House. That has been due to the power of the contributions around the Chamber. It has not been the Opposition particularly or any particular group. The Government have listened to the voices of experience and common sense. Certainly, the Cross-Benchers have played their full part and I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Best, in particular. I think that we all look up to him on housing matters. I thank my team and I offer big thanks also to the Bill team. Particularly at this stage of the proceedings there are a lot of last-minute amendments in order to try to get everything in shape for the conclusion of the Bill. The team has worked very hard and has always been receptive to inquiries that we have made. This has been a really good exercise in scrutiny of what, frankly, was not a great piece of legislation when it arrived in this place. It goes back to the other place in much better form. I am not quite sure how it will find the time to deal with all the amendments but I wish it well.
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, before we get lost in the fact that we are nearly there, I will answer the noble Lord, Lord Best, briefly, but I hope satisfactorily. I want to make it clear that local authorities can use existing planning mechanisms to take forward planning proposals that a neighbourhood forum or parish council has produced without needing to hold a referendum. The draft neighbourhood plan policies can be taken forward by the local authority as a development plan document which is subject to independent examination but not referendum. Similarly, the permissions in the neighbourhood development order can be taken forward as a local development order which is subject to neither independent examination nor referendum. So both development plan documents and local development orders are required to be subject to appropriate and effective consultation.
However, it is an underpinning principle of this Bill that a parish council or neighbourhood forum should always be able to ask the wider community to decide in a referendum whether a neighbourhood plan or order should come into force. Therefore, neighbourhood development plans and neighbourhood development orders, which are tools that the Localism Bill introduces for planning at a neighbourhood level, will always be subject to a referendum of the neighbourhood. The referendum gives everyone in the community the opportunity to have their say and demonstrate evidence of community support in a manner that cannot be demonstrated through a petition or consultation.
Local authorities that work effectively with their communities in planning at a neighbourhood level will be in a good position to decide whether to take emerging proposals through the development plan or local development order route, but it has to be right that if a local community wants it, it can use the power in the Bill to prepare a neighbourhood development plan or order and ensure that the wider community has the final say in a referendum. The removal of that right would undermine one of the core building blocks of neighbourhood planning as envisaged in the Localism Bill.
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