Provided that a robust consultation has been carried out, as I have illustrated in the case of Ebbsfleet, we do not consider that the hybrid process is a proportionate form of scrutiny, as there will have already been a statutory process, as proposed in the Bill, in which local objections can be formally registered.

The inclusion of a formal duty to consult will mean that the establishment of urban development corporations in England will be open to scrutiny by the courts

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should the consultation be flawed in any way. Application for judicial review will be available if people consider that the statutory procedure for consultation has not been properly followed.

I welcome the debates that we have in the House. As we have already seen this afternoon, we have great expertise across the board in this area. However, as noble Lords will know, Parliament could of course annul a statutory instrument under the negative procedure if it was not satisfied with how the Government had responded to any local objections that had been raised through the consultation. Indeed, this is already the case for mayoral development corporations, a similar type of body established for London by the Localism Act 2011, to which the negative procedure applies.

As well as ensuring an appropriate level of scrutiny, a statutory consultation procedure would be far more effective and efficient than petitioning under the hybrid procedure. Under the legislation as it stands, the point at which the order is declared hybrid by the House can be the first opportunity that people have formally to voice any concerns. It is far easier for people to participate actively in consultations and voice concerns at earlier stages of the policy-making process, rather than waiting for a chance to petition once a statutory instrument is before Parliament.

Replacing the hybrid procedure with a statutory consultation duty would also reflect the fact that the ability for people to engage with government has improved greatly in recent years. It is surely far quicker, cheaper and easier for members of the public to raise their concerns through a consultation process than to bring a statutory petition in front of the House of Lords.

The hybrid procedure can be a time-consuming process. The establishment of the West Northamptonshire Development Corporation found itself subject to the hybrid procedure, adding five months to the establishment timetable. In the case of the London Docklands corporation, established in the 1980s, it took seven months from the point at which the order was originally laid to the final conclusion and report by the Select Committee. The Select Committee itself sat for a total of 50 days, prompting it to recommend that the procedure on hybrid orders, which we are discussing today, should be reconsidered.

Delays of this nature are not merely an inconvenience; they are also detrimental to the development and regeneration of the areas that UDCs are established to deliver. Local businesses and communities can be faced with a considerable period of uncertainty. They may be unclear about what is happening, about the future plans for an area and, in the case of people progressing development proposals, unsure as to which body will be dealing with their planning applications.

There is a further reason why the hybrid procedure is not necessary in this case. The Government do not consider that the formation of an urban development corporation changes the rights of individuals and businesses in the area. The powers available to urban development corporations are already available to local authorities—those such as compulsory purchase, development management and the provision of certain

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services. Therefore, the Government do not accept that the creation of an urban development corporation gives rise to a loss of rights.

In conclusion, I wish to mention Ebbsfleet, which I have already flagged. Our proposal to change the approval procedure and to create a new statutory consultation duty reflects the level and type of scrutiny that the Government consider appropriate for statutory instruments of this nature. While it is true that the process of preparing to establish the Ebbsfleet UDC has highlighted the issue, we think it is right in principle that these arrangements should apply to orders establishing urban development corporations, whether for Ebbsfleet or elsewhere. I beg to move.

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, I declare an interest as a member of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. The Minister will not be surprised if I quote from that committee because it is important to have some of the points that were raised on the record.

I am very grateful that our chair, the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Winchester, is with us today. She very ably managed what has been, frankly, a chaotic process over the past few days. Normally we would expect an Explanatory Memorandum to arrive well ahead of the committee’s deliberations. In fact, we had to hold an emergency meeting of the committee to discuss the amendment, because it was tabled so late. We had no Explanatory Memorandum until very late in the afternoon of the day before we met. Our legal advice was therefore very limited, and we did not have the narrative that we would normally have expected. We had a series of very conclusive points but the committee was not well placed to make the usual judgment. Nevertheless, thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, and the clerks, we managed to prepare a very thorough, forensic and serious report on the process of the amendments and how they were tabled, as well as their content.

The process is important, of course, and for reasons that I have explained it was not at all satisfactory, but the content was even less satisfactory. The conclusion of the committee on these amendments, which essentially move the procedure from affirmative to negative in relation to the clause, is that they are inappropriate. It is a very serious judgment; we do not make it lightly and we do not make it very often. Any amendment that reduces the level of parliamentary scrutiny in this way deserves serious consideration by the House. In this situation, it means that the Minister has agreed and made it clear that these instruments can no longer be regarded as hybrid instruments—that is to say, in relation to the creation and powers of UDAs and UDCs.

Why are the UDAs and UDCs important? What do they do? They go back a long way. They have been created, and not lightly, for the major planning decisions that involve massive change and development. Ebbsfleet is a good example but, coming along, we may have garden cities and massive urban extensions—all developments that will have a profound impact on local communities and infrastructure, as well as local jobs and everything else that goes with it.

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The argument against hybridity in the context of what is proposed is that it introduces delay and uncertainty. It takes too long and can be disruptive. Indeed, the Minister has just used the words, “quicker”, “easier” and “cheaper”. We are all in favour of, and see the necessity for, urgent and strategic housebuilding in this country; there is no difference between us on that. What we do not want is to see a process deliberately compromised because the Government do not agree with that process, which has been in place and has served the country and the planning system well for the past 30 years.

The committee was very clear on this, saying:

“We do not find the arguments advanced in the memorandum in support of the proposal to downgrade the level of Parliamentary control … to be at all persuasive”.

It went on to say:

“We note that, when those sections were enacted to confer these significant order-making powers on the Secretary of State, it was recognised in the course of the proceedings in each House that orders designating UDAs and establishing UDCs were likely to be found hybrid … with the result that the petitioning process would be available to ensure that those whose interests were directly affected by the orders could have their objections properly examined and determined by a select committee of this House. In the light of what is said in the Government’s memorandum, and in particular in paragraph 20 regarding the current proposals for a UDA and UDC at Ebbsfleet in Kent, we consider that the retention of the hybrid instrument procedure in this context is no less necessary today for the purpose of properly safeguarding such interests than it was when sections 134 and 135 were first enacted … The present proposals do not appear to flow from any general review of infrastructure or other statutory planning procedures in connection with the designation of UDAs and the establishment of UDCs. Had that been the case, we might have expected to have seen provisions of this kind in the draft Deregulation Bill published last Session”.

5.15 pm

That is pretty clear. In fact, this argument about the purpose of hybridisation in relation to the use of the petition, and the representation and consideration of local views, is worth exploring as well. A hybrid instrument is there to protect people whose situation is going to be dramatically changed by whatever it is that the UDC plans to do: people who are directly affected by the massive changes implied in these developments. The Minister suggests that instead of having petitions and having their concerns properly discussed by a Select Committee, they should be content with a consultation process.

I also sit on the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, which considers the nature of consultation and consultation processes on a weekly basis. Not a week goes by when we do not have something to complain about in relation to the length of consultation the timing of consultation, the quality of consultation or the regard given to consultation by government. That is not a sufficient argument at all. The petitioning process is there so that people can have the impact on their lives, their future and their families properly considered and their objections properly examined. That is the principle behind the process which has ensured that those exceptional vehicles for exceptional decisions have remained for so many years.

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This change has not in any way been prompted by a failure of process. I think that the reference to Ebbsfleet is more than coincidence. Ebbsfleet has imposed certain requirements and urgencies on this Government, and we are faced with a situation, frankly, which is about expediency. I do not think that that is the way to change legislation and processes which affect people’s lives.

The committee has made it perfectly clear that this degree of deregulation is inappropriate. We look forward to the Government’s response, but I think we have already had it. By everything the Minister has said, I think that the Government have rejected the arguments of the committee. If the Government had wanted to review the process of regeneration, it should have been done in the context of a proper review of planning changes. I had the privilege to be the Minister for Regeneration for a while. I know how serious regeneration challenges are. It has been one of the failures of this Government that they have not articulated a strategy for regeneration in this country. It has been a series of improvised responses. I do not believe that this is the way to make policy or deliver good policy, particularly when what is at stake is the quality of engagement with a local community whose lives are going to be turned upside down by a massive development.

On that basis, I beg the Minister to think again about the likely response from the Select Committee. He will know that it is unusual for a Government to reject the response and the judgment of the Delegated Powers Committee.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, my noble friend Lady Andrews has put a compelling case, setting out our concerns with these proposals and building on the recommendations of the Delegated Powers Committee. It is a great pity that something of this nature and substance has been sprung on us at such short notice.

The Minister has gone through a whole range of potential responses and has touched on some quite tricky legal issues about the relationship of the consultation proposed and what that means for the hybridity process, and why, in a sense, we can ignore the matter.

When I saw the memorandum for the first time yesterday—it may have been this morning—what struck me was all the stuff explaining that the affirmative process was cumbersome, too difficult to organise and unpredictable in terms of time. That cannot be right. The affirmative process—these arrangements—is government management of business. I have never known that to be argued before as a reason for delay. As my noble friend said, we do not want to be part of anything which consciously disrupts the progress of the planning process on important regeneration, but we are entitled to insist on due process, a due process which has been in place for a very long time. The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee identifies real concerns that this is about a specific issue concerning Ebbsfleet and that this is driving what would be a very substantial change in our processes.

I have already given notice that we will oppose this government amendment, so it is not worth my saying much more.

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, and the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, for their clear contributions. I take this opportunity to put on record the Government’s thanks to the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee for its response and to formally apologise for the process that was undertaken and for the late submission of our memorandum. I fully adhere to, and the Government fully understand, the importance of submitting memoranda to committees in a timely manner and I am sorry that that was not achieved in this case. I thank the committee again, though we fell a bit short in our responsibility, for its ability to turn the paper around and respond so quickly. It would be entirely appropriate at this juncture to say that I have received confirmation that we will issue our formal

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response within the next two weeks, in advance of the next stage of the Bill. That was confirmed to me a few moments ago.

Several points have been made about procedure. It would be entirely appropriate at this juncture, bearing in mind the conventions of the House and that we are in Grand Committee, in line with section 8.102 of the Companion and the sensitivities and concerns that have been expressed, that I withdraw the amendment, but the Government’s intention is that we return to this issue on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 38 withdrawn.

Amendments 39 to 42 not moved.

Committee adjourned at 5.23 pm.