HC Deb 20 June 1995 vol 262 cc213-30 7.20 pm
Mr. Keith Vaz (Leicester, East)

I beg to move amendment No. 1, in page 3, line 2, at end insert— '(5A) Any regulations made by the Secretary of State under the provisions of subsection (5) above shall provide for the application of a service level agreement governing the administration of a qualifying inquiry and the performance of any person appointed to hold it.'. The amendment would incorporate the concept of service level agreements between the Planning Inspectorate and local authorities in the Bill.

As the Minister knows, the local authority associations are concerned that, as the requirement for inquiries into development plans is established in legislation, local planning authorities are being required to use a service that is offered by only one agency for a function that they are statutorily required to fulfil.

In those circumstances, the Opposition consider it essential that the level of service required of the inspectorate is formally set out with some means of redress for the planning authority if the inspectorate fails to perform adequately.

That issue was raised jointly in Committee with an amendment that would have introduced a contractual relationship between the inspectorate and the local planning authority. The Minister will recall—if I may draw his attention away from his discussions with the deputy Chief Whip to the amendment—that in his response the Government accepted the need implied for a more satisfactory footing for the arrangements between the planning inspectorate and the individual planning authority on whose behalf the planning inspector holds a development plan inquiry. We appreciate that the planning authorities want to have more say in inquiry arrangements in which they are required to pay what in some cases will be comparatively large sums. I am sure that the Minister will recall saying that. He went on to argue that the arrangements should not be included in the Bill. He continued: Many of the factors that influence the practical operation of development plan inquiries such as the number of objections are outside the Planning Inspectorate's control…that is why there are no targets and penalties for the Planning Inspectorate. The difficulty is that there are numerous other parties in the local plan inquiry process, which is not a simple matter of discussion between the planning authority and the Planning Inspectorate."—[Official Report, Standing Committee E, 17 May 1995; c. 19.] I am sure that the Minister recalls saying that too.

In response to other amendments in Committee, the Minister referred to the fact that the inspectorate had proposed a draft service level agreement with local authorities. He has sent a copy of that draft agreement to my hon. Friends and me. He also told us that he had placed a copy in the Library of the House.

The Minister mounted an argument of sorts against a strictly contractual relationship between the inspectorate and planning authorities, but his argument does not justify making no reference in the Bill to the introduction of a more formal relationship between the inspectorate and local planning authorities.

The local authority associations have been in discussion with the Department for some time and I believe that some progress has been made in trying to resolve the outstanding issues. The amendment would simply include the principle of such an agreement in the Bill without specifying precisely what its contents should be.

It is important, however, that the service level agreement should address the fact that local planning authorities do not have the usual redress of seeking an alternative supplier should the service provided by the inspectorate prove not to be of adequate quality or to provide value for money.

The Opposition believe that the service level agreement should be explicit about the level of service to be provided; measures to be used in assessing the quality of that service; provisions for receiving feedback on quality from the consumers of the service—the local authorities and others who are involved in the planning process—mechanisms by which significant difficulties may be tackled; methods for redress should either party fail to deliver its agreed performance; methods for the resolution of disputes, such as circumstances in which the local planning authority may wish to query matters of factual veracity or reasoning, or to clarify the inspector's recommendation; and, finally, the approach to be taken in the event of a significant disruption such as the illness of an inspector.

It may not be necessary for the universal service level agreement to contain administrative arrangements such as those for making documents publicly available, for the referencing of documents, for the hours and days of the week for sittings, for timing and for exchanging written evidence, for the procedure for giving evidence and for cross-examination, and for round-table discussions. Some of those matters may depend on the circumstances of the inquiry and the nature of the issues raised. Some may also need to be agreed at the pre-inquiry meeting.

Equity between different inquiries demands that the procedures followed are as universal as possible. The service level agreement could play an important role in establishing a common approach. Matters that are specific to an inquiry should be dealt with in a local supplement to the agreement to be prepared after the pre-inquiry meeting.

This simple amendment would formalise discussions and agreements that are currently proceeding. There is nothing controversial about it and I hope that the Minister will accept it.

Mr. David Rendel (Newbury)

I support the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz), because I too believe that the introduction of the service agreement is welcome but that it needs to be formalised.

Inquiries are becoming more complex and important because so much now depends on them. It is difficult to get a development proposal agreed once the local structure plans have been finalised.

We should, therefore, look hard at the procedures that we are using for inquiries and inspectors. On Second Reading, I said: We need some form of guidance about what to expect from our inspectors. The Government are keen on charters at the moment. Perhaps there should be an inspectors charter, which would lay down some ground rules on how they would work and what local authorities could expect from them."—[Official Report, 12 January 1995; Vol. 252, c. 312.] It was therefore very welcome when, shortly thereafter, the Government made proposals very much along those lines. I welcomed that in Committee and I welcome it tonight, but it is right that the procedure should be formalised. We do not want the proposals to go ahead merely as proposals and not to be properly implemented as they will be if the amendment is agreed tonight. Therefore, I hope that the House will agree it.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Sir Paul Beresford)

Only a lawyer could think out amendment No. 1. The route suggested by the amendment is likely to end in a legally binding contract that would remove the administrative flexibility that the planning authority and Planning Inspectorate need to operate inquiries efficiently.

The need of the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz) to regulate everything is part of the difficulty of his whole thinking. We desperately need administrative flexibility, which is what we seek. Under the amendment, the contract would have to be enforceable by either party. It would almost certainly increase the scope of disputes. It would not improve the local planning process and only lawyers would improve their income.

We prefer the approach of proceeding by agreement between those responsible for managing the development and the planning inquiry process. Officials in my Department and in the Planning Inspectorate are consulting officers of the local authority associations and the Royal Town Planning Institute on the draft of a service agreement.

7.30 pm
Dr. Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak)

Will the Minister give way?

Sir Paul Beresford

I shall not give way. We have been through this time and again, and it is a waste of time continuing with it. The aim is to finalise an agreement that the associations could commend to their members as soon as practicable. The Planning Inspectorate's aim is to offer the agreement to individual planning authorities, where the terms have been finalised, following the current consultation. We do not need the amendment. It would be counter-productive.

Dr. Jones

Will the Minister confirm a comment that he made in Committee—that he would consider establishing a working party with local authority bodies to consider the draft service level agreement? Is that still a proposal or has he withdrawn it?

Sir Paul Beresford

I repeat that a useful meeting was held on 2 June and that a further meeting, to discuss a revised text of the draft service agreement, is planned in the near future.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 168, Noes 197.

Division No. 168] [7.30 pm
Ainger, Nick Banks, Tony (Newham NW)
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Bayley, Hugh
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Beith, Rt Hon AJ
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Bennett, Andrew F
Ashton, Joe Betts, Clive
Austin-Walker, John Blunkett, David
Boateng, Paul Kilfoyle, Peter
Bradley, Keith Kirkwood, Archy
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Burden, Richard Lewis, Terry
Callaghan, Jim Liddell, Mrs Helen
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Canavan, Dennis Llwyd, Elfyn
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomery) Loyden, Eddie
Chidgey, David Lynne, Ms Liz
Chisholm, Malcolm McAllion, John
Clapham, Michael McAvoy, Thomas
Clelland, David McCartney, Ian
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Macdonald, Calum
Coffey, Ann Maclennan, Robert
Connarty, Michael McWilliam, John
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Madden, Max
Corbyn, Jeremy Maddock, Diana
Corston, Jean Mahon, Alice
Cunliffe, Lawrence Marek, Dr John
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Davidson, Ian Martlew, Eric
Denham, John Maxton, John
Dewar, Donald Meale, Alan
Dixon, Don Michael, Alun
Donohoe, Brian H Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Dowd, Jim Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Milburn, Alan
Eagle, Ms Angela Morgan, Rhodri
Eastham, Ken Morley, Elliot
Enright, Derek Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Etherington, Bill Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)
Evans, John (St Helens N) Mowlam, Marjorie
Fatcnett, Derek Mudie, George
Faulds, Andrew Mullin, Chris
Flynn, Paul Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Foster, Rt Hon Derek O'Brien, Mike (N W'kshire)
Foster, Don (Bath) O'Brien, William (Normanton)
Foulkes, George O'Hara, Edward
Fyfe, Maria Olner, Bill
Galbraith, Sam O'Neill, Martin
Gapes, Mike Parry, Robert
George, Bruce Pickthall, Colin
Gerrard, Neil Rike, Peter L
Godman, Dr Norman A Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Godsiff, Roger Prentice, Bridget (Lew'm E)
Gordon, Mildred Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Graham, Thomas Purchase, Ken
Grant, Bemie (Tottenham) Quin, Ms Joyce
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Radice, Giles
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Reid, Dr John
Grocott, Bruce Rendel, David
Gunnell, John Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)
Hall, Mike Roche, Mrs Barbara
Hanson, David Rooker, Jeff
Heppell, John Rooney, Terry
Hill, Keith (Streatham) Simpson, Alan
Hinchliffe, David Skinner, Dennis
Hoey, Kate Smith, Chris (Isl'ton S & Fsbury)
Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld) Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Home Robertson, John Spearing, Nigel
Hood, Jimmy Spellar, John
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Steinberg, Gerry
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Stevenson, George
Ingram, Adam Sutcliffe, Gerry
Jackson, Helen (Shefld, H) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Jamieson, David Taylor, Matthew (Trvro)
Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side) Tipping, Paddy
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Touhig, Don
Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O) Turner, Dennis
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Tyler, Paul
Keen, Alan Vaz, Keith
Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S) Walley, Joan
Khabra, Piara S Wareing, Robert N
Watson, Mike Wright, Dr Tony
Wicks, Malcolm Young, David (Bolton SE)
Wilson, Brian
Winnick, David Tellers for the Ayes:
Wise, Audrey Mr. Stephen Byers and
Worthington, Tony Mr. Joe Benton.
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Freeman, Rt Hon Roger
Amess, David Fry, Sir Peter
Arbuthnot, James Gardiner, Sir George
Amold, Jacques (Gravesham) Gill, Christopher
Ashby, David Gillan, Cheryl
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset) Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Gorst, Sir John
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Bates, Michael Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Batiste, Spencer Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Beresford, Sir Paul Hague, William
Biffen, Rt Hon John Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archibald
Body, Sir Richard Hampson, Dr Keith
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Hannam, Sir John
Booth, Hartley Hargreaves, Andrew
Bowden, Sir Andrew Harris, David
Bowis, John Haselhurst, Sir Alan
Brandreth, Gyles Hawksley, Warren
Brazier, Julian Hayes, Jerry
Bright, Sir Graham Heald, Oliver
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Heathcoat-Amory, David
Brown, M (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Hendry, Charles
Burns, Simon Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence
Burt, Alistair Horam, John
Butcher, John Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W)
Butler, Peter Hunter, Andrew
Carrington, Matthew Jack, Michael
Carttiss, Michael Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Jenkin, Bernard
Chapman, Sydney Jessel, Toby
Cappison, James Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ru'clif) Jones, Robert B (W Hertfdshr)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Coe, Sebastian Kirkhope, Timothy
Congdon, David Knapman, Roger
Conway, Derek Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Kynoch, George (Kincardine)
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Cormack, Sir Patrick Lang, Rt Hon Ian
Couchman, James Legg, Barry
Cran, James Leigh, Edward
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Day, Stephen Lidington, David
Deva, Nirj Joseph Lightbown, David
Devlin, Tim Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Dicks, Terry Luff, Peter
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James MacKay, Andrew
Dover, Den Maclean, Rt Hon David
Duncan, Alan McLoughlin, Patrick
Duncan-Smith, Iain Madel, Sir David
Dunn, Bob Maitland, Lady Oiga
Dykes, Hugh Malone, Gerald
Elletson, Harold Mans, Keith
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) Merchant, Piers
Evans, Roger (Monmouth) Mills, Iain
Evennett, David Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Faber, David Monro, Sir Hector
Fabricant, Michael Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Moss, Malcolm
Fishbum, Dudley Nelson, Anthony
Forman, Nigel Neubert, Sir Michael
Forsyth, Rt Hon Michael (Stirling) Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring) Nicholls, Patrick
Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley) Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Pawsey, James Temple-Morris, Peter
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Thomason, Roy
Pickles, Eric Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Porter, David (Waveney) Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Powell, William (Corby) Thurnham, Peter
Richards, Rod Townsend, Cyril D (Bexl'yh'th)
Riddick, Graham Tredinnick, David
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn Trend, Michael
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S) Trotter, Neville
Robinson, Mark (Somerton) Twinn, Dr Ian
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne) Viggers, Peter
Scott, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Walden, George
Shaw, David (Dover) Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Waller, Gary
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Ward, John
Shersby, Sir Michael Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Sims, Roger Waterson, Nigel
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Wells, Bowen
Spencer, Sir Derek Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Whittingdale, John
Spink, Dr Robert Widdecombe, Ann
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Steen, Anthony Wilkinson, John
Stephen, Michael Wilshire, David
Stem, Michael Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Stewart, Allan Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Streeter, Gary Wolfson, Mark
Sweeney, Walter Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Sykes, John Tellers for the Noes:
Taylor, Ian (Esher) Mr. Timothy Wood and
Taylor, John M (Solihull) Mr. David Willetts.

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Vaz

I beg to move amendment No. 2, in page 3, line 2, at end insert— '(5A) The prescribed standard amount referred to in subsection 5(b) above shall not be changed more than once in each calendar year; and any change shall be subject to consultation with such organisations as the Secretary of State considers to be representative of local authorities.'. As drafted, the Bill enables the Secretary of State to recover from local planning authorities the costs of appointing inspectors to hold local public inquiries. Central to that is a power to make regulations setting out the detail of the costs to be charged. The regulations will, in particular, set out a prescribed standard amount for the cost of an inspector.

The subject of the charging provisions was probed in Committee. Replying to questions, the Minister argued: The way in which the Bill is constructed will be an inducement to both local authorities and the Government to reduce costs. Given that the standard spending assessment includes a payment from the Government to local government through the planning portion of the SSA, the hon. Gentleman will realise that both sides will wish, if for no other reason than their economies, to improve and streamline the cost of inquiries. The Minister confirmed that an increase in the standard daily amount would require the introduction of regulations in the House, subject to the negative resolution procedure. He added: The Planning Inspectorate has proposed a draft service agreement with local authorities that aims to give them a minimum of 28 days notice of an increase in the standard daily amount. In practice, however, local authorities would expect to be given considerably longer notice because of the need for regulations that would spring from such an increase. That approach is therefore reasonable, particularly given the opportunity of the negative resolution procedure. In response to an amendment that would have required the Government to consult local authority associations on the regulations, the Minister indicated that he accepted the principle of the amendment and undertook to abide by the contents of a statement of guidelines for central Government and local government regulations. He confirmed that consultations about the regulations will take place when the Bill is enacted."—[Official Report, Standing Committee E, 17 May 1995; c. 10–15.] 7.45 pm

In defending the Bill, the Government have repeatedly argued that the costs that local planning authorities will face as a result of the inquiries are fully reflected in the local government funding mechanism, through the SSAs. In Committee, however, my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. O'Brien) made the important point that this particular amount was not quantified in the SSAs. Given the way in which SSAs are constructed, it is not possible to prove whether individual items are reflected in them. That is particularly so with costs such as these, which are small in relation to local government expenditure as a whole and do not arise regularly in the case of individual authorities, but can pose a significant burden when they do.

As we know from both Second Reading and Committee, a large amount is currently being demanded from local government. That means that authorities need to be in a position to plan for the likely costs as far in advance as possible, and that any changes in the level of costs need to be linked with changes in the level of resources made available to local government through the SSAs and the revenue support grant regime. Specific consultation between Government and planning authorities on any increase is essential.

The amendment seeks to address those issues by limiting any increase in costs to no more than once a year, and requiring specific consultation on such an increase. We consider that, first, increases occurring more often than annually would not be acceptable; secondly, specific consultations with local authority associations should take place on any increase; and, thirdly, any increase should be no more than any increase in the real level of resources available to local authorities.

Mr. Bill Michie (Sheffield, Heeley)

Having spent many years in local government and having chaired a large Sheffield planning authority, I am acquainted with the problems that may arise long before a planning application is submitted or an inquiry begins. I know of the demands made on officers' and politicians' time, and I know that the public feel that they should have more say in the matter. We have always had such problems, and I suppose that we always will—unless we tidy up our act.

The amendment deals with the likely increases in the costs of public inquiries relating to, for instance, Sheffield's unitary development plan. Local authorities are, of course, instruments of government, and as such they do not make the rules or prepare the ground for such inquiries. In fact, unitary development plans are an idea of the Government's with which I do not disagree—I think they are a marvellous idea—but I hope that UDPs can be dealt with more sensibly in future. Changing the plans every three or five years is extraordinarily costly for taxpayers.

Local authority planning departments have a statutory obligation to carry out UDPs and public inquiries. That takes a long time, certainly in Sheffield—although most of the public are happy with the way in which the inquiry there has been conducted. Nevertheless the cost is astronomical. The ground rules on planning and inquiries are set by the Government and they should foot the bill. I hope that there is some agreement in the House on that.

Many people think that planning is boring but I find it fascinating. [Interruption.] I said planning: not family planning. It is a fascinating subject, but unless we get the system right, in two or three years' time someone will ask, "How did we get ourselves into this mess? Why was this built there? Why was it not built here?" The whole idea of unitary development plans is to try to make sure that that does not happen, but it costs local authorities an arm and a leg to embark on such exercises.

My hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz) spoke about the standard spending assessment, but that still leaves a shortfall for local authorities. Their planning departments are Cinderellas and are not looked upon as providing front-line services. I understand why much more emotion attaches to education and social services and care, but the correct implementation of planning regulations has a profound effect on the citizens whom we represent. Like all authorities, Sheffield city council is currently meeting the cost of the staff involvement although there is an element in the SSA to deal with that cost. Most people, however, would be surprised to hear the actual costs.

I have a note from my local authority in Sheffield that the accrued cost of the public inquiry for Sheffield's unitary development plan could be about £200,000. I am sure that the Minister will have something to say about that. That includes the cost of two inspectors—it is a large inquiry—which could total between £80,000 and £100,000. Obviously, a local authority has to take advice because of the importance of such an inquiry, and that involves banisters' costs of £90,000 plus. Is the Minister prepared to say how much barristers' fees have cost ratepayers or taxpayers for such inquiries nationally? I think that the figure would be horrific. For such projects there is also the programme officer's salary, office expenses and other inquiry running costs. I take a simple view.

I have no objection to inquiries. They are crucial, but I object to the fact that the Government do not fully understand the importance of having in planning authorities competent, highly skilled people who can deal with the democratic right of people to express their opinion. Obviously, the Government would have an influence, but local authorities should not be left with bills that they cannot afford. Like many local authorities Sheffield is still bound by its statutory duties, and is trying to do the best that it can with such inquiries even though it is under the Government's financial constraint. I hope that the Government will look more seriously at the cost to local authorities. They should be given the wherewithal to do a competent job and they should be allowed to do it without the fear that they may have to scrimp and save and not be able to do the job that they would like because of the costs that would have to be passed to their ratepayers.

Mr. William O'Brien (Normanton)

The Minister should consider carefully the amendment's principles and background. It asks that inquiry charges be increased no more than once a year, and that any increase should be in line with the expenditure that is set by the Secretary of State for local authorities to provide services. If the Minister does not accept the principle of the amendment he should explain why he thinks the increase in inquiry charges should occur more than once a year.

On Thursday the Secretary of State for the Environment made it perfectly clear to the House that he accepted that local authorities were working on stringent budgets because of capping and that the standard spending assessments set by the Government are such that local authorities cannot provide for increases other than those that are set out in their budgets. That is, basically, the principle that lies behind the amendment. It is right that local authorities should have some assurances.

When we debated costs in Committee we challenged the Minister to deny that the Bill would impose a charge on local authorities for retrospective Government charges for planning inquiries. I said that that was totally unfair and unjust, but the Minister said that any payments that local authorities might be called upon to make for retrospective planning inquiries would be met or that the SSA would contain an element to meet that extra Government charge.

I wrote to the Minister asking him to outline how much he anticipates will be included in the SSA to cover the costs that will be charged to local authorities. He replied, which I appreciate, by saying that the SSAs for the coming year will be approximately £38,743 million and that 0.03 per cent. of that will be for planning costs. He said that that was included in a budget provision for other services. It is easy for the Minister to say that part of the other services element of the SSA will cover those costs, but in view of the make-up of the other services we must ask the Minister to explain further.

In the Minister's reply to me dated 20 June— yesterday—he highlighted the fact that the services in annexe H of an enclosed document included a number that were covered by the SSA. He listed them in the document, and planning implementation and control are included in that list. The only problem is that while non-metropolitan district councils and metropolitan county councils are covered, metropolitan district councils are not.

The Bill is a result of what happened in Birmingham, which has a metropolitan district council. Although the Minister addressed the points that I raised with him, his answer did not apply to the authorities about which I questioned him in Committee. Although the Minister gave some information about how he believes the SSA should be apportioned according to the formula, not all authorities are covered.

The Minister owes members of the Committee in particular, but the House in general, some explanation as to why he refers only to non-metropolitan district authorities and not to metropolitan district councils. Wakefield, the region where I am from, is involved. An account will be sent to it for retrospective payments for planning inquiries.

8 pm

If the Minister does not accept the amendment, the revised planning guidance that the Government are contemplating will mean further cuts in the consultation period that takes place when a unitary development plan is offered for consultation to people in the communities. In Wakefield, the planning authority conducted an extensive consultation exercise. Its chairman and officers called public meetings in towns and villages and explained in full the purpose of the unitary development plan. If we decide to reduce the resources, they can be taken only in respect of the consultation period that planning authorities undertake to acquaint their communities with their plans for the next five or 10 years.

That is the course that the Department is embarking on with the revision of the planning guidance on statutory plans. It is wrong, and the Government would have to explain why they intend to take from communities their right to have planning procedures made clear and understood. If amendments are suggested by the public and communities, that is their right. It would be wrong for the Government to take that right away.

The cost element is attached to inspectors and inspectors' services that apply to local authorities. The Wakefield authority carried out its exercise in accordance with the Government's directives. The problem with the unitary development procedure in relation to Wakefield was the length of time that it took for the inspector to present the report and the fact that there was the unexpected element of the inquiry. In Committee, the Minister said that he agreed with Opposition Members that the procedure of the inspector carrying out his exercise in the community and presenting the report would have to be speeded up. Will we be given the additional assurance that the waiting time for an inspector's report will be reduced and that the inspector will be more specific about when he will attend the public inquiry and invite people to present their observations and comments? Will the Minister give an assurance that, if people promise to attend a public inquiry and fail to do so, any charge on the local authority should be met by those people if the reason for not attending was not justified?

Tonight, the Minister will have to answer a number of questions. This is the last opportunity that we have to press the Minister to do something to ensure that local authorities will not again be charged for services other than those included in the SSA or the capping criteria that are set by the Secretary of State for the Environment. If the Minister believes that planning is important, if he considers that communities have the right to examine proposals that affect, in many instances, their destiny in the form of development of industrial and residential estates, if he believes that communities and local authorities have the right to examine those plans, to choose and to make representations on proposals in a unitary development plan, and that people have a universal right to make representations, the only way that he can be fair and offer any real assurances is to accept the amendment. That would give local authorities the comfort of knowing that, when their budgets are set and provision is made in the planning budget for a public inquiry, that charge will not increase.

We want to have—last time we argued that this was possible—a service agreement, but such an agreement is not there. We want some assurances from the Minister, as outlined in the amendment, that charges will be made no more than once a year and that they will be in line with a local authority's budget provisions.

Dr. Lynne Jones

The amendment is designed to exert some constraints over the Planning Inspectorate and the frequency with which it demands an increase in its charges and the level of those increases. I am not sure why it refers only to subsection (5A), but it is an example of what needs to be done.

That this amendment is necessary is demonstrated by the behaviour of the Planning Inspectorate, presumably acting with the agreement of the Secretary of State for the Environment. Between June 1989 and September 1991, the charges for development plan inquiries increased by more than 170 per cent. In Committee, the Minister had an opportunity to comment on and justify that scale of increase in charges, but he declined to do so; perhaps tonight he will take the opportunity to comment, particularly as I understand that it is proposed to increase the current charge of £285 a day for planning inspector services by 19 per cent.

The fact that the charges are not based on any rational assessment of actual costs is demonstrated by the fact that charges for development plan inquiries differ substantially. At one time, there was a difference of between £350 a day and £285 a day. That has never been justified. The Minister declined to comment on that discrepancy or to give any assurances about how the Department's administrative overheads, which can be charged, would be justified.

It is thanks to Birmingham city council that this legislation is before us. Under the proposals in the service level agreement, which is a step forward, there will at least be 28-day notification of an increase in charges. That is an improvement. Last time they were increased, notification went out on 12 September for charges that were to be increased on 1 September. Birmingham city council is to be congratulated on its final decision to consider such charges when its original estimate of £28,000 for its development plan ended with a demand for a £63,000 payment—almost three times the original assessment.

I hope that the Minister will respond to those arguments. What is being proposed is a step forward, and Birmingham city council should be congratulated on that. I welcome the fact that the negative resolution procedure may delay the 28 days even longer. However, we still need to hear a justification for charges being increased more frequently than once a year. I cannot understand why the Government will not accept our reasonable amendment.

Mrs. Helen Jackson (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

I shall ask one question in support of the amendment. Money is finite in the local authority sector, as I am sure the Minister will agree. The Select Committee on the Environment heard only last week that, if community care costs are taken out of the local government equation, the Department envisages a reduction of 6.3 per cent. in real terms over the next three years.

As money is finite, I must ask the Minister a question that the Sheffield city solicitor raised with me. Is not such an increase in costs, and such uncertainty over the planning budget for financing planning appeals, likely to make an authority even more wary about taking important enforcement action over serious environmental issues?

As the Minister will know from the deliberations on the Environment Bill that have been taking place over the past few months, local authorities are being asked to take on many more responsibilities in connection with important matters of which there is a growing public awareness, and to take enforcement action on environmental issues. Such increases in costs will create more pressure, especially on local authorities that develop a careful budget plan to allow for them, and they will therefore have no room left for unexpected, although possibly very important, legal action that may be necessary when there are serious violations of environmental standards in their areas.

For those reasons, I look forward to hearing what the Minister says in response to our important amendment.

Mr. George Stevenson (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

As my hon. Friends have said, the amendment seeks to restrict the Government's undoubted ability and intention to increase the standard daily amount so that that can be done only once a year. I could not help wondering what the Government's attitude would be if the roles were reversed. If local authorities sought to impose charges on the Government as and when they wanted, what would the Government's reaction be? If a local authority said, "We want to change the cost of collecting your business rate every month or so," the Government's reaction would be—

Mr. Bill Michie

Shock, horror.

Mr. Stevenson

—as my hon. Friend suggests, shock, horror.

I suspect, in fact I know, that the Government would say, "You can't do that." If local authorities were legally entitled to do it we would see a phalanx of Ministers on the Government Front Bench pressing us to change the law to stop those awful authorities. That would undoubtedly happen if the roles were reversed, so why do the Government find our reasonable amendment, which is consistent with their philosophy of effectiveness, efficiency and controlling costs, so horrid? Why do they recoil from it?

Mr. Michie

They had not thought of it.

Mr. Stevenson

They have not thought about any of this.

8.15 pm

We must dig deeper, and consider what the standard daily amounts are. They represent all the administrative costs, both direct and indirect, of the public inquiry. When we pressed the Under-Secretary of State in Committee about what the costs might be, we were all impressed by his silence—because silence was what we got. All that we could interpret from that silence was that he did not know, and I suspect that that is his motive for rejecting the amendment. Not only has he no faith in his ability to control costs, but he does not know what the costs would be even if he had. He could not tell us in Committee, and I suspect that he cannot tell us now.

What did the Minister tell us in Committee about the costs? He told us that they included "general overhead costs", whatever they might be—that phrase covers a multitude of sins. He said, "Don't worry, trust us. We are okay; we are a good bunch of people." Then he said: There will, however, be a daily charge that will be notified to the planning authority before the inquiry begins. That is an interesting statement. When will that notification take place—a day in advance, two days, a week, a month, six months, or even 28 days? I do not know. I have looked through the Hansard report of the Committee sitting and I cannot find any trace of any information.

The Minister continued: That will mean that the council will be able to budget for the anticipated costs of the inquiry and of the report by reference to the numbers of inquiry days, plus the number of subsequent reporting days. Thus, the total anticipated charge can be known and calculated in advance by the planning authority."—[Official Report, Standing Committee E, 17 May 1995; c. 10.] The unfortunate fact is that the planning authority may be engaged in several planning inquiries in one year. Are we to accept the underlying philosophy and logic behind what the Minister says—that the planning authority will be engaged in only one planning inquiry in a year? We all know that that is nonsense, and that authorities are often engaged in several inquiries in the same year.

The Under-Secretary told us that the costs would be identified and contained in standard spending assessments. But how can we reconcile the fact that standard spending assessments are compiled only once a year with the fact that planning authorities will know what costs are to be imposed on them as standard daily amounts and other general costs at some unidentified unspecified date before each planning inquiry? That is what the hon. Gentleman said.

If the hon. Gentleman continues that alarming logic this evening we are entitled to ask him for an assurance that he will not increase those charges between planning inquiries, so that planning authorities have to jump through the hoop every time there is a planning inquiry and compile another budget. If the Under-Secretary continues to insist that the Minister will have the authority to change the standard daily charge almost at will, without consulting local authorities, the danger is that that charge will be amended—that is, increased—more than once a year. Unless he can assure us that that will not happen, he cannot duck the logic behind his own statement.

If local planning authorities are going to be advised what their charges will be before every local inquiry, when will they be advised? What will those charges be and will the Minister assure us that those charges will not be changed between one inquiry and another? If he will not give that assurance, it will make nonsense of the assurances that he tried to give in Committee and of the proposition—already a weak one in respect of this Government—that we should trust him and the Government.

We are seeking to get a working relationship in the light of court cases and everything else that has led to the changes that the Government are proposing. I put it to the Minister: is it reasonable, given his days as a local authority member, that local authorities will like the prospect of some Minister cloistered in Whitehall telling them what their costs are going to be every time there is a planning inquiry and that they may be changed every time there is an inquiry? Is that the sort of basis on which Government and local authorities should operate in a very important aspect of Government and local authority activity?

As my hon. Friends have said, planning inquiries affect everyone's life in some way, shape or form. Are the Government's proposals a reasonable basis for those activities? I put it to the Government, as we did in Committee, that they are not. They have no logic and simply say that the Government will hold all the aces and that local authorities will have to like it or lump it. That is not the basis on which such activities should be conducted.

Mr. Bill Michie

My hon. Friend touches on a theme with which I totally agree. It seems to me that the Government, for some arbitrary reason, put a value on what they think each planning inquiry is worth. That could be a bit of a problem because if the Government of the day do not like a particular inquiry or are not bothered about whether the local authority wins, loses or whatever, they can make sure that there is not adequate finance to deal with that inquiry. It is a bit dodgy if, before the inquiry starts, there is a judgment of the value of it being done properly.

Mr. Stevenson

I agree with my hon. Friend. In the light of the Government's intransigence in the matter, the amendment seeks to find a middle way. They will not tell us in any detail what the costs are likely to be. They have extended the scope of the costs because the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, which the Bill seeks to amend, referred only to recoverable costs covering remuneration and allowances. The Bill covers the entire administration costs of and incidental to the qualifying inquiry. There is a world of difference. Despite our arguments, the Minister did not seem to understand that. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Michie) made an extremely valid point.

In conclusion, the Minister and, indeed, the whole army of Government Ministers, continually claim that their intention is to make local and national government speedier, more efficient and more effective. Apart from the mechanisms used to achieve them, most of us would concur with such goals as being consistent with good government. The Government have always claimed that they give higher levels of service. We have citizens charters coming out of our earholes. We seem to get one every day. We have more citizens charters than crises, which is saying something.

In the circumstances that the amendment seeks to address, we are asking the Government to demonstrate their commitments. We are asking the Government to restrict their ability to change the charges to once a year. I do not know any hon. Member who would find that unreasonable. Rejection by the Government of the amendment would clearly imply that they are not confident of their ability to control costs and that they are not in charge of their civil servants or Departments. It is the same logic that has been applied year in, year out, to local authorities by the Government. It is an easy way out for the Government simply to pass the costs on to local authorities and, under the Bill, to do so almost willy-nilly. For those reasons, hon. Members should accept the amendment.

Sir Paul Beresford

Of all hon. Members with local government experience, I should have thought that I would be the one who wants to squeeze local government expenditure and to understand the point that Opposition Members are making about that. I appreciate and understand that Labour Members want to limit the frequency with which the prescribed standard daily amount can be changed. That is plainly sensible from the point of view of the local authority budgetary process and the annual local government financial settlement.

If I may pause for a moment, I shall answer the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. O'Brien), who, I am sorry to say, obviously did not understand. He says that the planning provisions of standard spending assessments do not relate to metropolitan districts such as Birmingham. He has misunderstood the annexe that I sent to him. Planning control and planning implementation are taken into account for shire districts, metropolitan districts and London boroughs. The reference in the annexe to the non-metropolitan districts was merely to classify the services provided by counties in shire areas and those provided by districts in shire areas. Outside the shire areas, the metropolitan districts and London boroughs provide both county and shire district services. Their SSAs therefore cover all the other services in annexe H.

Mr. William O'Brien

Is the Minister dealing with annexe H, which he sent me, or using details given to him since I raised the matter by civil servants in the Box? If he is not dealing with annexe H, he is not being fair with the House.

Sir Paul Beresford

I am explaining something that I should have thought that someone who has, in the past, taken part in local government, would have understood. I am explaining, effectively, annexe H.

If the Bill is enacted, the calculation of the standard daily amount will be my Department's responsibility. In practice, the amount of the charge will depend on the Planning Inspectorate's year-on-year cost in providing inspectors to hold development plan inquiries. The inspectorate also budgets on an annual basis, although its budgets relate to the financial year, not the calendar year. We do not expect the charges to be reassessed more than once in any particular annual period.

It is probably worth reminding hon. Members that the cost and figures given sound large, but, put as a proportion, they are not; the proportion of council expenditure is only 0.03 per cent. I shall give one specific example—one of the favourite boroughs of Labour Members. Wandsworth borough's unitary development plan inquiry opened on 2 March 1993, lasted 23 days and had an additional four site visit days. It closed on 13 March 1993. The total bill was just under £52,000. That is in a total gross budget, if I remember correctly, of nearly £500 million. The balances that the local authorities are required to set aside by the auditor would more than cover the charges that Labour Members are trying to exaggerate.

Of course, my Department and the local authorities have a common interest in minimising the frequency with which charges are altered. In any event, there will be the additional discipline of having to justify any proposed increase to Parliament when the necessary subordinate legislation is introduced.

We also had a proposal for a consultation requirement. I explained in Standing Committee that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister agreed last November with representatives of the local authority associations a statement of guidelines for central and local government relations. Paragraph (d)(4) of the guidelines includes provision for consultation about relevant financial issues. My Department will follow those guidelines in consulting about proposed increases in charges to be introduced in future by these regulations. The amendment is unnecessary.

Mr. Vaz

We have had an extraordinary reply from the Minister. If he believes that it is reasonable that local authorities should be consulted and if he thinks that it is unnecessary to increase charges more than once annually, there is no reason why he cannot accept the amendment so that such provisions are written into the Bill. The reason why my hon. Friends will not accept assurances given by Ministers is, frankly, that they are not worth the Hansards they are written in simply because so many of the assurances given by Ministers are changed by subsequent Ministers.

8.30 pm

We believe that the amendment represents a reasonable way out for the Government. It provides for consultation with local authorities; the Minister says that he is in favour of consultation. A meeting took place with the Prime Minister last year. There is no reason why that consultation should not be written into the Bill. There is also no reason why we should not be clear about the matter at this stage.

The Bill was introduced to make matters concerning the cost of inquiries as clear and precise as possible. Here is an opportunity to ensure that the Bill is clear and precise. We will, therefore, press the amendment to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 155, Noes 194.

Division No. 169] [8.30 pm
Ainger, Nick Fyfe, Maria
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Galbraith, Sam
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Gapes, Mike
Ashton, Joe George, Bruce
Austin-Walker, John Gerrard, Neil
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Godman, Dr Norman A
Barnes, Harry Godsiff, Roger
Bayley, Hugh Gordon, Mildred
Beirth, Rt Hon A J Graham, Thomas
Bennett, Andrew F Grant, Bemie (Tottenham)
Benton, Joe Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Betts, Clive Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Boateng, Paul Grocott, Bruce
Bradley, Keith Gunnell, John
Burden, Richard Hall, Mike
Callaghan, Jim Hanson, David
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Harvey, Nick
Canavan, Dennis Heppell, John
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomery) Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Chidgey, David Hinchliffe, David
Chisholm, Malcolm Hoey, Kate
Clapham, Michael Hogg, Norman (Cumbemauld)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Home Robertson, John
Clelland, David Hood, Jimmy
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Coffey, Ann Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Ingram, Adam
Connarty, Michael Jackson, Helen (Shefld, H)
Corston, Jean Jamieson, David
Cunliffe, Lawrence Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Davidson, Ian Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Denham, John Keen, Alan
Dewar, Donald Khabra, Piara S
Dixon, Don Kilfoyle, Peter
Donohoe, Brian H Kirkwood, Archy
Dowd, Jim Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Lewis, Terry
Eagle, Ms Angela Liddell, Mrs Helen
Eastham, Ken Loyden, Eddie
Enright, Derek Lynne, Ms Liz
Etherington, Bill McAllion, John
Fatchett, Derek McAvoy, Thomas
Flynn, Paul McCartney, Ian
Foster, Rt Hon Derek Macdonald, Calum
Foster, Don (Bath) McWilliam, John
Foulkes, George Madden, Max
Maddock, Diana Reid, Dr John
Mahon, Alice Rendel, David
Marek, Dr John Roche, Mrs Barbara
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Rooney, Terry
Martlew, Eric Simpson, Alan
Maxton, John Skinner, Dennis
Meale, Alan Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Michael, Alun Spearing, Nigel
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute) Steinberg, Gerry
Milburn, Alan Stevenson, George
Morgan, Rhodri Sutcliffe, Gerry
Morley, Elliot Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wy'nshawe) Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Tipping, Paddy
Mowlam, Marjorie Touhig, Don
Mudie, George Turner, Dennis
Mullin, Chris Tyler, Paul
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Vaz, Keith
O'Brien, Mike (N W'kshire) Wareing, Robert N
O'Brien, William (Normanton) Watson, Mike
O'Hara, Edward Wicks, Malcolm
Olner, Bill Wilson, Brian
Parry, Robert Winnick, David
Pike, Peter L Wise, Audrey
Pope, Greg Worthington, Tony
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Wright Dr Tony
Prentice, Bridget (Lew'm E) Young, David (Bolton SE)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Tellers for the Ayes:
Quin, Ms Joyce Mr. Stephen Byers and
Radice, Giles Mr. Jon Owen Jones.
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Davies, Quentin (Stamford)
Amess, David Day, Stephen
Arbuthnot, James Deva, Nirj Joseph
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Devlin, Tim
Ashby, David Dicks, Terry
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Baker, Nicholas(North Dorset) Dover, Den
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Duncan, Alan
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Duncan-Smith, Iain
Bates, Michael Dykes, Hugh
Batiste, Spencer Elletson, Harold
Bellingham, Henry Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Beresford, Sir Paul Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Evans, Nigel (Ribbie Valley)
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Bowden, Sir Andrew Evennett, David
Bowis, John Faber, David
Brandreth, Gyles Fabricant, Michael
Brazier, Julian Reid, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Bright, Sir Graham Fishburn, Dudley
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Forman, Nigel
Brown, M (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Forsylh, Rt Hon Michael (Stilling)
Burns, Simon Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Burt, Alistair Freeman, Rt Hon Roger
Butcher, John Fry, Sir Peter
Butler, Peter Gallie, Phil
Carrington, Matthew Gardiner, Sir George
Carttiss, Michael Gillan, Cheryl
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Chapman, Sydney Gorst, Sir John
Clappison, James Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ru'clif) Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Coe, Sebastian Hague, William
Congdon, David Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archibald
Conway, Derek Hampson, Dr Keith
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Hannam, Sir John
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Hargreaves, Andrew
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Harris, David
Cormack, Sir Patrick Haselhurst, Sir Alan
Couchman, James Hawksley, Warren
Cran, James Hayes, Jerry
Heald, Oliver Porter, David (Waveney)
Heathcoat-Amory, David Powell, William (Corby)
Hendry, Charles Richards, Rod
Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence Riddick, Graham
Horam, John Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk) Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W) Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Hunter, Andrew Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Jack, Michael Scott, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Shaw, David (Dover)
Jenkin, Bernard Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Jessel, Toby Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Shersby, Sir Michael
Jones, Robert B (W Hertfdshr) Sims, Roger
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
King, Rt Hon Tom Spencer, Sir Derek
Kirkhope, Timothy Spink, Dr Robert
Knapman, Roger Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash) Steen, Anthony
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Stephen, Michael
Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n) Stem, Michael
Kynoch, George (Kincardine) Stewart, Allan
Lait,Mrs Jacqui Streeter, Gary
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Sweeney, Walter
Legg, Barry Sykes, John
Leigh, Edward Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Temple-Morris, Peter
Lidington, David Thomason, Roy
Lightbown, David Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham) Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Luff, Peter Thornton, Sir Malcolm
MacKay, Andrew Thumham, Peter
Maclean, Rt Hon David Trend, Michael
McLoughlin, Patrick Trotter, Neville
Madel, Sir David Twinn, Dr Ian
Maitland, Lady Olga Viggers, Peter
Major, Rt Hon John Walden, George
Malone, Gerald Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Mans, Keith Waller, Gary
Marlow, Tony Ward, John
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Waterson, Nigel
Merchant, Piers Wells, Bowen
Mills, Iain Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Whittingdale, John
Monro, Sir Hector Widdecombe, Ann
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Moss, Malcolm Wilkinson, John
Nelson, Anthony Winterton, Mrs Arm (Congleton)
Neubert, Sir Michael Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'fld)
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Wolfson, Mark
Nicholls, Patrick Wood, Timothy
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley
Pawsey, James Tellers for the Noes:
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Dr. Liam Fox and
Pickles, Eric Mr. David Willetts.

Question accordingly negatived.

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