§ The Leader of the House (Dr. John Reid)
I beg to move,That if at the conclusion of this Session of Parliament proceedings on the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill have not been completed, they shall be resumed in the next Session.The carry-over of a public Bill is not unprecedented. The House agreed to carry over the Financial Services and Markets Bill on 25 October 1999. As I understand it, that Bill was a highly detailed and complex measure, which was significantly improved by the extra time provided for scrutiny, but this is the first time a carry-over motion has been moved under the procedure approved by the House last October.
In its second report of last Session, the Modernisation Committee recommended that Standing Orders be amended to permit carry-over of a Bill by resolution of the House for an experimental period, but that no Bill should be carried over for more than one extra Session. The Committee argued in paragraph 38:If we are serious about providing for better scrutiny then we most adopt a longer time perspective which permits more time and more thorough scrutiny. That can only come from the wider use of carry-over.
§ Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire)
The Leader of the House has just explained why the Modernisation Committee provided for greater scrutiny of a Bill, but can he assure us that, following the statement yesterday and the point made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who said,Because Britain has experienced difficulty in balancing supply and demand in housing, we propose to build further and extend the reforms already announced in respect of planning"—[Official Report, 9 June 2003; Vol. 406, c. 411.],we are not getting a new Bill—a rewriting of the Bill—partly because the Government have changed their mind? The Chancellor seemed to imply that yesterday.
§ Dr. Reid
It is true that the Chancellor referred yesterday to planning and the simplification of the planning process, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the discussions and amendments to the Bill, which cover Crown immunity and various other aspects, and the decision to allow for greater scrutiny were not connected with the decisions announced yesterday by the Chancellor. The decisions were taken in order to allow for greater scrutiny and to incorporate further amendments, and because of the pressure of business in general. Notwithstanding the fact that the entire planning process was referred to yesterday, and is a material factor in diminishing some of the obstacles to our entry to the euro, that is not directly related to the reasons why I am moving the carry-over motion today.
I finished my quote thus:If we are serious about providing for better scrutiny, we must adopt a longer time perspective that permits more time and more thorough scrutiny. That can come only from the wider use of carry-over.544 Some Opposition Members objected to that. It was not my comment, but a continuation of the direct quote from paragraph 38 of the Modernisation Committee's second report of the previous Session.
§ Sir Paul Beresford (Mole Valley)
It is clear from the Order Paper that if the motion is agreed the Bill will return to Standing Committee. The difficulty faced by the previous Committee was that as a result of the lack of time allowed by the guillotine only a fraction—perhaps about 25 per cent.—of the Bill was covered. In the light of the proposed changes, will the time allowed in Standing Committee be sufficient to allow proper consideration of the Bill?
§ Dr. Reid
I hope that it will give a greater opportunity for scrutiny. I do not entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that there was no leeway for amendment or discussion. The information that I have—of course, I was not a member of the Standing Committee—suggests that some 500 amendments were tabled and 210 were taken in respect of a Bill of about 70 clauses. That does not suggest that there was a complete absence of scrutiny or discussion of the amendments. Nevertheless, I hope that the point that he makes is correct and that there will be greater leeway for scrutiny when the Bill goes back to the Standing Committee.
§ Sir Paul Beresford
Many of the amendments were dealt with under the guillotine. On the basis of a quick finger count, I hope that those amendments were not included in the total.
§ Dr. Reid
That is all the more reason for the hon. Gentleman and I to be united in welcoming the fact that there will now be some more time for greater scrutiny of the Bill if it returns to the Standing Committee. Indeed, I hope that the Government's willingness to allow more time for scrutiny will be welcomed not only by him, but in all parts of the House.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold)
The Bill was 90 clauses and seven schedules long. Will the Leader of the House tell us how many clauses and schedules were debated in Committee? Can he assure the House that when the Bill is recommitted to a Standing Committee, the Committee will not be subject to a guillotine?
§ Dr. Reid
I have no doubt that it is important, and I try to assimilate whatever information I can about Bills with which I have not been personally acquainted, but I cannot provide a direct answer to that question. As I said, I understand from the background information that I read before this debate that about 500 amendments were tabled to a 90-clause Bill. More than 200 amendments were selected and discussed, often in groups.
Of course, there is continual time pressure and continual pressure on the Government in terms not only of the legislation, but of the degree of our 545 accountability. Throughout the past six months, the hon. Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown) and his colleagues have been at the forefront in asking us to be accountable to this House on the question of Iraq in particular, and we have done that. It is not possible to guarantee in advance that we will not use the guillotine on any of the amendments, but, whatever complaints hon. Members have had in the past, it is plainly the case that there will now be more scrutiny than there would have been before I came to the Dispatch Box to announce the carry-over.
§ Matthew Green (Ludlow)
I might be able to elucidate the matter a little. The Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty), who is sitting next to the Leader of the House, stated in a written answer:Of the 90 clauses in the Bill, 22 were fully debated, four were partly debated and 64 were not debated."—[Official Report, 5 February 2003; Vol. 399, c. 348W.]A massive 64 clauses were not debated.
§ Dr. Reid
In view of those circumstances, there is an even greater reason why there should be at least a degree of unity, and agreement that the scrutiny offered by the carry-over—an addition to any that has occurred until this stage—should be welcomed by all of us. I find it extraordinary that an alleged lack of scrutiny in the past should become the basis of an objection to extra scrutiny in future. I do not follow the logic of that position.
§ Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet)
Given that if the Bill is recommitted to Committee it will contain extra provisions, especially on getting rid of Crown immunity and promoting the Government's sustainable communities agenda, may we have an assurance that not only the new clauses but the 64 clauses in the present Bill that were not considered previously—not through filibustering—will be considered in Committee?
§ Dr. Reid
As the hon. Gentleman knows, as a matter of formality we are recommitting the whole Bill, not parts of it. If he has misgivings or desires about how we conduct the extra time that will be available, I have no doubt that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will be only too willing to discuss that allocation of scrutiny time with Members on both Opposition Front Benches. I see that the hon. Member for Cotswold is nodding. I do not concede that there was inadequate scrutiny in the past, but, if there was, surely we should all welcome the fact that there will be additional scrutiny in future. (Interruption.] Perhaps not those of a more churlish spirit.
§ Mr. Clifton-Brown
Given that the previous guillotine enabled only less than a third of this highly technical Bill to be debated, and that we still do not know precisely what new items the Government are going to put into it, will the Leader of the House tell us what the new items will be so that we can judge whether the provisional eight sittings that the Under-Secretary has proposed to me will be enough? We will have only four sittings on the five major new items that Government are to add to the Bill and four sittings to revisit at least half a dozen issues 546 that we raised in relation to the previous Bill. The Government are already building up a problem for themselves as regards the new recommittal Committee.
§ Andrew Bennett
I am not enthusiastic about guillotines, but the blame for the lack of debating time for the Bill should lie firmly with Opposition Members. They knew what was in the Bill, and if they had been succinct and to the point they would have been able to cover the issues. They should take an example from Members in the other place, who are dealing with legislation very quickly and efficiently.
§ Dr. Reid
I am sure that my hon. Friend's robust and forensic criticism of the attitude and practices of those on the Opposition Front Bench is accurate, but I am trying to be more emollient, as is my wont on such occasions, by trying, whatever differences we have had in the past, to direct us towards a position of potential agreement. It is good that we now have more time for scrutiny. If hon. Members are concerned about using that extra time, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will explain in some detail the measures that will to be added to the Bill, and he is willing to discuss with Members on both Front Benches how the time is allocated. We shall attempt to make up for whatever deficiencies there have been in the past, irrespective of which side of the House they arose from.
I had hoped—admittedly, it has proved to be a forlorn hope for the time being—that the Government's willingness to allow a longer time for scrutiny of the Bill would be welcomed on both sides of the House. I hope that later the House will agree to recommit the Bill to Standing Committee, but it will be possible to give it more time in Committee only if hon. Members agree to our proposal to carry it over to the next Session.
There are various reasons for that proposal; I have not pretended that it is all to do with allocating extra time for scrutiny, although that is part of it. I have been open with the House, in the past, as well as today, about the pressures that we are under this Session, not least in view of the fact that we have made available—quite rightly; I make no complaint about it—a significant amount of time to consider the situation, then the conflict, in Iraq. Although we have enough time to complete the passage of the Bill this Session, we believe that it would be beneficial to delay its departure to the other place. That will give us the opportunity to introduce to the House, rather than in the Lords, new provisions to end the Crown's immunity from planning control, subject to certain safeguards, thus implementing a long-standing cross-party commitment. I hope that the House will welcome that and accept that the motion is made in good faith.
547 We will discuss later how the additional time in Committee can best be used. That will be a matter not for diktat, but for negotiation through the usual channels.
§ Dr. Reid
The right hon. Gentleman contributes what I presume to be an Anglo-Saxon, rather than a Latinate. "Huh!" to demonstrate his scepticism about my remarks. I know, however, that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary is always eager to try to reach a consensus on such matters, and I hope that the Opposition will engage constructively in the process of how we allocate the extra time.
We do not anticipate that the Bill will have completed its passage through the other House by 4 December, a year after its first introduction in the House. We have therefore also tabled an extension motion today to allow proceedings on the Bill to continue for up to a further six months.
§ Mr. Clifton-Brown
The Bill left Committee and was reported to the House on 28 January this year. What has happened to it in the intervening period? Surely it could have almost been on the statute book by now.
§ Dr. Reid
Well, it has included a war, among other things. It has been a busy time. I understand that the hon. Member for Cotswold may have found it inconvenient to wait for this important Bill—so have we. However, we are now in a position not only to make cross-party amendments but to give additional time to scrutinise it. I hope that that is some consolation. In practice, we hope that the Bill may achieve Royal Assent by the end of March.
In short, I ask the House to agree to the carry-over of the Bill and hope that it will accede to that request.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold)
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in the debate on this important and unprecedented motion.
Today, we are witnessing the Government performing a sheepish and embarrassed U-turn over one of their flagship Bills of this parliamentary Session. It comes as no surprise that they hope to smother under the guise of complex parliamentary procedure the admission that the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill was, from the start, a deeply flawed and poorly drafted measure. It strikes me as remarkable that for the past few months the Under-Secretary has been walking around with his fingers crossed, hoping that nobody notices that the Bill has been out of Committee since 28 January this year. For no fewer than 133 days, the Bill seemed to be reported missing somewhere in Whitehall. Rather as in the case of Lord Lucan, reports occasionally crept out of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister about its possible whereabouts, but there were 548 no definitive sightings. We all asked ourselves whether the Government were so embarrassed about the Bill and the reaction to it from all manner of specialist and professional bodies that they planned quietly to shelve it, or whether it would be whipped through Parliament before the summer recess despite the fact that it was deeply flawed.
As long ago as December 2001, the Government produced three huge tomes of consultation papers, to which they received no fewer than 16,230 replies. As a result, they decided to submit the Bill to the pre-legislative scrutiny procedure and referred it to the Select Committee on the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. Under the excellent chairmanship of the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Bennett), the Committee produced its report in July 2002. It shows how flawed the Bill was from the start. Paragraph 5 of its conclusions states that the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions provided the Committee with an analysis of the responses to the consultation on the Green Papers, to which I referred. It showed that 88 per cent. of the respondents did not support the replacement of local plans, unitary development plans or the local development framework, and that only 10 per cent. of the 16,000-odd respondents supported the abolition of county structure plans.
Many organisations that responded, such as the Royal Town Planning Institute and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, which supported reform in principle, opposed many of the practical grounds. The former was critical of proposals for business planning zones and the latter criticised the plan to introduce tariffs. Paragraph 6 of the Select Committee report stated that the proposals amounted to a fundamental and radical reform of the planning system, but that it had been argued that the Government's objectives could be better met by reforming the existing system. Conservative Members say amen to that. We argued all along that it would be far better to reform the existing system than to rip up four or five decades of case law and planning law and start again, thus creating a paradise for lawyers.
§ Andrew Bennett
Will the hon. Gentleman also take the trouble to make the point that the Government listened to the Select Committee and made many consequent changes? Much of the organic change for which we have argued has been going on during the consideration of the Bill. I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman referred to the Select Committee report, but he should update his comments by saying that the Government listened.
§ Mr. Clifton-Brown
The Government may have taken note of a small amount of the Select Committee's report, but they produced a deeply flawed Bill. It was rushed through in 12 half-day Committee sittings, which ended on 28 January. The guillotine was far too strict and we voted against it. The specialist magazine, Planning Weekly, was moved to comment:The Government is not fast-tracking the legislation so much as actively railroading it through.That railroading made proper parliamentary scrutiny almost impossible. We should bear that in mind when we consider the extent to which the Bill's scrutiny was unsatisfactorily stunted.
549 Hon. Members have already pointed out that the measure has 90 clauses and six schedules. By the end of consideration in Committee, 63 clauses and four schedules had not been debated. What a mockery of parliamentary scrutiny. In the Committee's sixth sitting, clauses 18 to 36 could not be debated, which meant that contentious issues, such as the preparation of local development documents and the plan for joint committees of county councils and local planning authorities—two of the measure's central planks—went undebated.
On 21 January, the hon. Member for Ludlow (Matthew Green) tabled an amendment to correct two glaring spelling mistakes. The Bill mentioned "complusory" purchase and used the peculiar new word "satisified". It would have been reasonable of the Under-Secretary to accept the amendment without debate. However, he asked the hon. Gentleman to withdraw it. It was put to the vote on my insistence and defeated. The Minister's only excuse for refusing to accept elementary amendments on spelling mistakes was:I do not have confidence that there are only two errors … I undertake that my counsel will go through the Bill to find all the typos".—[Official Report, Standing Committee G, 21 January 2003; c. 299.]At that stage, the Government were so determined not to consider any amendments that we were asked to let the Bill be reported to the House with spelling mistakes. If that is allowed, how can we do our job properly?
On 6 December 2002, when the Bill was published, the Government stated that they intended to have a new planning system up and running by the next year. Only two months ago, in answer to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir Sydney Chapman), the Leader of the House described the Bill as "important, indeed urgent". A month ago, the Under-Secretary affirmed his desire to get the Billapproved and on the statute book as soon as we possibly can."—[Official Report, 14 May 2003; Vol. 405, c. 298.]What have the Government been doing since January?
According to the Standing Order, only one Bill can be committed under the unprecedented carry-over procedure. It is almost as if the Bill is a test case. What a measure to choose—it has had such a bad start and such long consideration. As the Leader of the House said, the procedure is not unprecedented in that the Greater London Authority Act 1999 began with 277 clauses and reached Royal Assent with 425 clauses. However, the Bill has been moved to a late stage in the Session, and we do not know what the Government will include in it now that they could not incorporate initially.
The Under-Secretary told me the other day that he intended to tackle five items. First, he would correct the spelling mistakes that he previously refused to correct. Secondly, he would include the measly concessions that he made in Committee. Thirdly, he would consider further some of the issues that we raised in Committee, such as the statement of development principles, planning permission, urban development corporations and local development orders. However, we are told that we are likely to get only four sittings in which to examine those matters.
550 Fourthly, the Under-Secretary said that he would include a provision to take account of the Law Commission's recommendations on the mechanics of compulsory purchase. To my mind, that is the only excuse of the four for wanting to extend scrutiny of the Bill. Fifthly, he said that he would introduce a new concept of eliminating Crown immunity in relation to planning for Departments. That would have an enormous effect in terms of bureaucracy, delay and expense. In a letter dated 5 June 2003, he stated that he would include a sixth category to implement the sustainable communities agenda.
Perhaps the Under-Secretary will tell us what exactly he will include in the Bill. There is no chance of properly scrutinising the six categories, let alone revisiting some of the issues that were not debated in Committee, in the eight sittings that he proposes.
§ Sir Paul Beresford
Does my hon. Friend agree that—perhaps this is even more important than the points he has just made—we now have an opportunity to simplify the Bill? We have an opportunity to deal with what was being imposed on this country compared with Wales, but it is being missed.
§ Mr. Clifton-Brown
My hon. Friend played a sterling part in Committee. He and my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet contributed greatly, unlike some Labour colleagues, who never spoke. I shall revert to that point later. My hon. Friend has made a good point. The provisions for Wales are a great deal simpler than those for England. Although we debated the incorporation of the provisions for Wales into the English system at length, the Government steadfastly refused to consider that. I hope that my hon. Friend is right and that the extra time that the unwelcome and unprecedented motion grants will give us a chance to revisit the matter.
§ Matthew Green
The hon. Gentleman suggested that he was not happy with ending Crown immunity. How does he square that with his opposition in Committee to the many powers that the Bill awarded the Secretary of State? Why does he want the Secretary of State to retain powers on Crown immunity? I am confused by a position that appears inconsistent.
§ Mr. Clifton-Brown
Not for the first time, the hon. Gentleman adopts the sneaky technique of misrepresenting me. I did not say that we opposed the abolition of Crown immunity. I want to see the Government's proposals and I shall subsequently decide whether to recommend them to my colleagues. Until we read them, it is impossible to make a judgment. That is why we need adequate time in Committee to debate them. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that the measure is a centralising Bill par excellence. It gives the Secretary of State and the regions enormous powers. Both matters were subject to many amendments in Committee to try to make a bad Bill better.
We are debating something that is unprecedented. It is covered by the new Standing Order introduced in the House on 29 October 2002, which makes provision for a Bill to be carried over. As the Leader of the House has said, the Modernisation Committee's idea, when proposing the new Standing Order, was to ensure that 551 Bills had proper scrutiny. I hope that introducing this motion, which the Government will presumably whip through on their side, will enable the Bill to have such proper scrutiny, because otherwise, those bodies out there will be equally dissatisfied. We have had a lot of representations, and I shall give the House one or two quotes from them. Simon Ricketts, a partner at S.J. Berwin, says:The planning bill will make the system more complex and will not achieve the government's aims for a faster, fairer planning system.Karen Cooksley, a partner at Masons, states:The planning bill will keep lawyers busy for years.We would have found it infinitely preferable to modify the existing system, but the Government were not satisfied with that. They are determined to tear up the existing system, to create huge powers for the Secretary of State, who will be able to control virtually the entire planning system, and to dictate to the regions what they must put in their regional spatial strategy. The regions will, in turn, dictate to the local authorities what is to be in their plans.
I have one final question for the Minister. A number of councils are currently considering their local plans. They have been ordered to adopt the new system in 2004, whether the legislation is in place or not. Under this new procedure, we are getting a year's extra scrutiny from when the Bill was first committed to the House on 4 December. If the next motion—which you will not permit me to talk about now, Mr. Speaker—is passed, we shall have a year and a half. That will take us to June 2004, at the latest, to get the Bill on to the statute book—if, indeed, the Government do not have to use the Parliament Act to get it through their lordships' House. The House of Lords will now undoubtedly give it huge scrutiny. How are local planning authorities to approach this matter if they do not know precisely what form the Bill will take, but have been told that they must carry out the consultation and start preparing their local plans? The local authorities need an answer to that question from the planning Minister.
This motion is unwelcome. We wish that it had not been introduced, and we believe that the Government's discipline in getting their legislative programme through the House is a shambles. If the Bill is carried over, the parliamentary procedure in the next Session will undoubtedly be made even more difficult, because it will be cluttered up with Bills from this Session. We will oppose this motion; it is a bad motion from a Government who are incapable of getting their legislative procedure through. This is a bad Bill, to boot, and we hope that we shall now have an opportunity to improve it in some small measure.
§ Andrew Bennett (Denton and Reddish)
I welcome the procedure that the Government are going to adopt for carrying over Bills; it seems very sensible. I should like to make two points. The first is about the nature of Bills in the House and the way in which the Leader of the House will deal with Bills in the next few months. The second is specifically about this Bill.
As I understand it, there has been a tendency for the Government to want to keep Bills short. It has even been said that if a Bill gets too long, the Legislative 552 Programme Committee of the Cabinet will not allow it into the timetable at all. I hope that the Government will give some thought to that matter. When I used to teach—admittedly, it was some time ago—the Education Act 1944 was almost the teachers' bible. In that one piece of legislation, we could see most of the provisions that we needed for our work. The tendency of the Government in recent years, however, has been to have lots and lots of legislation, and I simply make a plea to the Leader of the House that it might be better to get on to the statute book a big, comprehensive Bill that would last, rather than giving Departments pint-sized pieces of legislation on a regular basis.
I make this plea bearing in mind the Housing Bill that the Select Committee is about to look at. The amazing thing is that we have received a huge amount of evidence for the pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Bill—that is very helpful—but almost 50 per cent. of it complains about things that are not in the Bill. When we spoke to Lord Rooker about that, he made it quite clear that if the Bill were to expand, it could well lose its legislative slot in the Queen's Speech. I would therefore like to ask the Leader of the House whether he will consider letting Departments have full and comprehensive Bills when they need them, rather than doling out a little bit each year. That would be much better.
§ Sir Sydney Chapman
The hon. Gentleman is making a very interesting and constructive point, but let us suppose that the Bill, in whatever form it takes, eventually gets on to the statute book. Would not that be a good time for the Government to introduce a consolidation Bill that brought together in one piece of legislation all the matters relating to town and country planning, including the principal Act?
§ Andrew Bennett
There might well be arguments for a consolidation Bill, but I do not think that the House deals with them particularly well. I would repeat my plea for having a full Bill to start with. When I come to discuss the Bill itself, I shall make the point that adding on the provisions relating to compulsory purchase orders and other matters is a sensible move by the Government.
I want to make the small point that, in my view, the Opposition are whingeing far too much. It seems a little odd that the most important thing that they wanted to consider in Committee was the spelling mistakes. I should have thought that there were more important principles in the Bill. Being a bit dyslexic myself, I do not think that we should get too hung up on the spelling, but I shall leave that point aside. The Opposition should also consider how Parliament has been modernised. If we are to have pre-legislative scrutiny, and if the Select Committee is to do much of that work, the Opposition will have to consider using their time in Committee rather more efficiently.
§ Mr. Forth
We always appreciate helpful advice from the hon. Gentleman, based on his vast experience, but if he is saying that the Opposition must fit in with the time arbitrarily set by the Government, I am not sure that I agree with that as a parliamentary principle. Is he aware that, certainly in another place, the recent experience has been that pre-legislative scrutiny increases interest in a Bill, and increases the available level of knowledge and 553 expertise about a Bill? It does not, therefore, reduce the amount of time or the necessity for scrutiny; rather, it tends to increase it. Is the hon. Gentleman aware of that?
§ Andrew Bennett
I understand those arguments, but I still believe that, as a result of pre-legislative scrutiny, the Government have to concentrate their mind on the issues that people outside are pressing. It might well be that the Opposition need to do that as well.
I do not like the idea of knives coming down in Committee. It seems perfectly reasonable to say that a Bill has to come out of Committee at a certain time, and that is what the House has traditionally done. It is then up to the Opposition to allocate the time within those constraints. If the Opposition want a sitting to go late into the night—although I understand that Ministers are not very sympathetic to this—I have no difficulty with that, so long as they are prepared to meet the deadline at the end of the proceedings. It is important, however, that they adapt their tactics to current procedures.
§ Mr. Clifton-Brown
The hon. Gentleman has made a point about knives. He will be aware that knives have been involved on at least four occasions in relation to this Bill, and on no occasion was the Government Whip prepared to go beyond 7 o'clock, despite the fact that we were prepared to do so. We do not agree with guillotines at all, but if the Government were to give the Opposition the freedom that the hon. Gentleman describes, within a constrained number of sittings, by extending the sitting time and removing the knives, there would be some purport in his criticism.
§ Andrew Bennett
I accept that; it seems to me that there has been a lack of negotiation. Personally, I would not start with the guillotines; I would simply start with the Government setting a deadline for the proceedings and hoping that the desired result could be achieved by negotiation. I have to say, however, that, having been in the House for quite a long time, and having filibustered in Committee on many occasions, I believe that the way in which Bills were scrutinised in the past was often not particularly helpful—
§ Andrew Bennett
I accept that, Mr. Speaker. I shall turn to the Bill itself.
I welcome the extra bits that the Government will put into the Bill, but I want to press the Minister on the question of delay. When the Select Committee was rather more enthusiastic for organic change, rather than a big bang of legislation, there was a worry that there would be a hiatus for local authorities in the interim while moving from the old system to the new. I think that such a hiatus is beginning to develop.
I hope that the Minister will tell us that this process will not delay the implementation of the Bill. The dates envisaged were some time after the Government expected Royal Assent to be given, and I hope that they will be kept to.
554 Will we have the extra planners we were promised? The legislative change will not work without more planners, and more effective planners. We were pleased when the Government made concessions on section 106 money, but many people outside are confused and concerned, and I hope the Minister can tell us exactly what is happening. I also hope that we can have a bit more information about the provisions relating to compulsory purchase orders, and an assurance that what the Chancellor talked about yesterday will not be slipped into the Bill: that would be very unfortunate.
I plead with the Minister to ensure that any new development body for the Thames gateway will not slow the process down. The Select Committee noted that in Dartford, for instance, people who had been working very slowly for nearly 10 years had now got their act together.
When trying to create sustainable communities, the Government should look again at the building regulations. This morning, with the Select Committee, I visited BedZED, a Peabody Trust development. That showed me how much progress could be made in the building of sustainable housing. I hope that building control regulations will keep up to date with the best of what is proposed.
I am glad that we are going to spend a bit more time on the Bill. Perhaps the Leader of the House will consider applying the same principle to the draft housing Bill. Finally, let me plead with the Opposition not to go on whingeing, about guillotines, but to find ways in which they can work effectively within the new restrictions.
§ Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall)
I am glad of the opportunity to speak. As the Leader of the House said, although there are precedents for carry-over, we are using a new procedure for the first time. My colleagues and I are far from happy about the way in which that procedure is being imposed on us.
I have experienced the benefit—I hope it is a benefit—of working with the Modernisation Committee on some of these issues since its inception. Neither the Leader of the House nor his Conservative shadow, the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), have experienced that benefit, let alone others who are speaking today. I therefore want to refer to points made by the Leader of the House earlier, and to what lies behind the process.
The Modernisation Committee has always seen this as a deliberate, careful trade-off. The Opposition parties would have a bigger role in deciding the business of the House, while the Government would have more certainty about the way in which its business might be pursued. In particular, we might together try to improve the product that emerges from the legislative sausage machine. I am sorry to produce another analogy immediately, but that would enable us to avoid the "London bus" syndrome of having to consider all the big Bills arriving seriatim during the parliamentary year without devoting proper scrutiny to some important parts of them.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Matthew Green) hopes to deal with points relating specifically to the Bill if he is able to speak on the next motion. I want 555 to return to what was said by the Leader of the House in his introduction. He referred to a motion put to the House on 29 October last year, and to one of the Select Committee's recommendations which was the subject of the debate that followed. What he did not mention was recommendation (i), which stated:We recommend that there should be collective consultations with other parties in the House on the broad shape of the legislative year, those Bills intended to be published in draft, those Bills intended to be carried over and which Bills are expected to be introduced in the Commons, including discussion on the likely dates of recesses and related matters such as Friday sittings and Opposition days".That was part of the trade-off.
The hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Bennett) was right to point out that implicit in the Modernisation Committee's proposals was the fact that the Government would know the date when Bills would leave Committee, but that within a Committee it should be largely left to the Opposition parties to decide where the knives should fall and how much time should be spent on individual sections. That is all part of the proposal put to the House on 29 October.
Lest there be any doubt about that recommendation, the then Leader of the House, the right hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook), made crystal clear what the procedure was intended to be. He said:we have committed ourselves to consultation with other parties in the House—both the official Opposition and the other parties—on the broad shape of the legislative year, including consultation on which Bills might be introduced in draft, what the broad order of Bills coming before the House might be, whether a Bill begins in the Lords or in the Commons, and which Bills might prove to be appropriate for carry-over. That is wide-ranging consultation—much wider than any collective consultation that has previously been attempted in this House—and I hope that it will assist in developing consensus on the shape of the parliamentary year."—[Official Report, 29 October 2002; Vol. 391, c. 696.]There has been one such meeting—a meeting between the then Leader of the House and the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst, a representative of the minority parties and me. There have, however, been no further collective consultations on these issues. The context of the motion we are discussing has therefore been blown to smithereens. There has been no discussion, and no agreement, on the broad context of carry-over and the legislative year. That means that the agreement made not just in the Modernisation Committee but in the House on 29 October is not being followed this afternoon, and my colleagues and I are very concerned.
We do not think it acceptable to deal with these matters piecemeal. There must of course be a specific motion for a specific Bill—that is what the House agreed to—but we face the possibility that over the next few weeks we will have to deal with other stand-alone motions on other carry-over issues without the appropriate consultation that was agreed to, and to which the Government were previously committed.
§ Dr. John Reid
I do not dismiss some of what the hon. Gentleman is saying. Normally, at the time of Second Reading or thereabouts, we would want to give prolonged advance indication of the Bills that we 556 wanted to carry over. That has not happened in this case. I hope that we shall not need to resort regularly to the method we are having to employ today.
§ Mr. Tyler
I hear what the Leader of the House says and I know that he speaks with great sincerity, but I wonder whether we shall not be faced with yet more carry-over proposals between now and the end of the Session—in which case his words may come to haunt him.
Two other important safeguards were built into the trade-off that was recommended to, and accepted by, the House. The hon. Member for Denton and Reddish has already mentioned one: that programming in Committee should be left to the initiative of members of that Committee, in particular Opposition members, so that they could identify the most important issues, and decide on the allocation of time and where the knives should fall, in a programming sub-committee.
The other safeguard is equally important. In the proposals put to the House on 29 October, there was a deliberate link with pre-legislative scrutiny. It was said that that was one way of ensuring that the time of both Houses was put to good use. The hon. Member for Denton and Reddish and his Committee did some good work on pre-legislative scrutiny, but let me put this to the Leader of the House. We now know that a lot of new material will come before the House and its Standing Committee. Will the Select Committee be given an opportunity to carry out more pre-legislative scrutiny?
Some of these issues are extremely significant. If the link is between pre-legislative scrutiny and carry-over, the full exercise must be undertaken rather than the Committee's being left to try and work its way through new material in a way that has been described as haphazard—which is putting it pretty mildly. We should note in passing that the other place has built into its agreement to any carry-over the explicit promise that pre-legislative scrutiny will have occurred.
§ Mr. Clifton-Brown
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that paragraph (3) of the Standing Order of 29 October 2002 says:A carry-over motion shall not be made in respect of more than one bill",so only one Bill can be carried over under the procedure. Does he agree that this Bill, having had huge pre-legislative scrutiny, is an inappropriate candidate for that? A Bill that had not had pre-legislative scrutiny should have been carried over. I hope that the Modernisation Committee will look carefully at that aspect when the order has to be renewed after this Session.
§ Andrew Bennett
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that, strictly speaking, there was not pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill? My Select Committee looked at the Government's White Paper and at what the 557 Government were proposing. There were changes when the Bill was published but strictly speaking, pre-legislative scrutiny did not happen.
§ Mr. Tyler
The reason that I am so concerned that we look at the principles is that it is the first time that this particular procedure has been followed. It is extremely important to get it right. I am grateful to the Leader of the House for endorsing my interpretation.
As I have said, I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow will catch the eye of the occupant of the Chair in the subsequent debate to deal with details of the Bill. I and my colleagues believe that there is an opportunity and a need for carry-over in certain circumstances to avoid the confusion that we have often had when there has been a great bunch-up of legislation at the end of the sessional programme. We believe that there are great opportunities for developing consensus across the House on the handling of our business. That will benefit not only hon. Members but those whom we represent, who are clearly looking for a better product than we have been able to produce in recent years. However, we require full consent and endorsement, and full implementation not just of the letter of the recommendations put to the House on 29 October but of the spirit.
As I say, I hope that the Leader of the House will revisit the full report of the Modernisation Committee and the full assurances given by his predecessor to the House on 29 October, not only so that we can have positive assurances about what the Bill will do, and what will be done in the coming Session to improve its evident inadequacies, but so that we can have cross-party agreement about the way in which our business is handled in the House. There is much room for improvement.
§ Sir Paul Beresford (Mole Valley)
When the Bill disappeared off the face of the earth, or at least I thought that it had, there was considerable relief. I thought that finally, despite the Minister's protestations, he had bowed to the people sitting behind him. The Bill was a mistake. Sadly, it has reappeared today. My second, hopeful choice is that there will be major changes to the Bill, taking some notice of the opposition: I mean not just the Opposition in the House but that outside. However, it does not sound as if that will be the story. It looks as though new bits will be added and that a complex and difficult Bill will be made several times worse.
Apart from the Ministers by those who were heavily whipped, the Bill as it relates to England has been accepted as centralising and extremely bureaucratic. It is 558 slowing planning and planning procedures. It is yet another blow to local government. As its Chairman has mentioned, the Select Committee essentially condemned it. He said that we favoured organic change—I think that that was the phrase. That is a delicate way of putting it. Perhaps his memory is a little like Nelson's eyesight, conveniently. The Bill was shredded by many of those who reacted to the Select Committee's request for information and consideration, and by many of those who protested when it received a Second Reading and went on to the Committee stage.
What perhaps intrigued me most was that, when the Select Committee was looking at the Bill during the inquiry, one morning, the planning Minister from the Welsh Assembly arrived and made it clear that, from her point of view, essentially, the planning procedures as they stood worked. A few minor changes around the edges here and there were mentioned but a total shake-up was not called for. After that lady finished speaking to the Select Committee, the Minister from the other place spoke. He was typically dramatic. Anyone who knows him would anticipate that from him. There was much arm waving. Adjectives were used heavily. He said that the Bill was going to sweep away all before it.
Many of us had anticipated that, because we had seen that Minister in the Back-Bench local government committee. He told those interested, who included many ex-planning Ministers, that the Bill was the best thing since sliced bread, it was going to rejuvenate everything and that he understood planning now because he had been planning Minister for six weeks. At the very best, there were wry smiles and many wishes of good luck. When the Bill was introduced, an awful situation was landed upon us. My reason for opposing the motion is that there is an opportunity for the Bill to disappear for a total rethink and for Ministers to recognise that dogmatically to push ahead with it is to go against the clear thinking and reaction of local government, which will have to implement it.
Local government planners are dismayed. The House Builders Federation and the builders themselves are dismayed. The Council for the Protection of Rural England is dismayed. Quietly, many of the Minister's Back Benchers are dismayed. Ministers in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister have been notoriously bent on centralisation. Similar warnings were given on the best value Bill, the Local Government Bill, the funding formula and other measures but they have been ignored. Interestingly, if one looks at those previous Bills, many of the predictions are slowly being recognised by Ministers. Those of us who are protesting today and who will vote against the motion are asking Ministers to recognise that they have made a mistake, that there is some genuine and thoughtful opposition and to take the opportunity to forget the Bill and to come back again with something infinitely more sensible that will speed up planning procedures rather than delay them.
§ Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet)
I can, I hope, be reasonably brief because much of what I was going to say has been said by my hon. Friends the Members for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown) and for Mole Valley (Sir Paul Beresford). Certain facts about the Bill are beyond dispute. In Committee, we had only 12 short sittings. A 559 sitting lasted not more than two and a half hours. Only 24 of the 90 clauses were considered; of the other 66, 64 at least were not considered at all. I think that it is beyond dispute—I hope that the Minister will back me up on this—that there was no filibustering. It is a great pity that the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Bennett) was not on the Committee. Because of his vast experience in these matters, he would have been a considerable help to the Committee. He would have seen that there was no filibustering. The only disruption, if my memory serves me correctly, was when we had to adjourn the Committee to vote on the Floor of the House. That time was taken off the two and a half hours.
In case there is any misunderstanding, I have been an advocate of every Bill being timetabled ever since I first came to the House in 1970. My quarrel with the Government is that, with the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill, as with so many others they have introduced, there has been totally inadequate time to consider the provisions in Committee. The Bill is important as well as controversial. During the all too short Committee stage, the Government indicated that they had second thoughts and would look again at certain important issues.
I want to make my point by asking some short, direct questions, and when the Minister sums up, I hope that he can give the House the answers. If the Bill is to be recommitted, will it be possible to consider all the provisions? If not, will not only the new provisions introduced, but the 66 clauses that were not adequately discussed—
§ Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal)
Order. The hon. Gentleman is debating the recommital, rather than the carry-over. Perhaps he could address his remarks to the motion.
§ Sir Sydney Chapman
I beg both your pardon and the House's pardon, Madam Deputy Speaker; perhaps I got a little confused by the three separate motions that we are considering this afternoon. However, the Government are clearly going to add provisions to the Bill, and I want to know whether they are going to change any of the existing ones in the light of the discussions that have taken place.
The best course of action that the Government should take, and indeed could take, is to withdraw the current Bill and publish a draft Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny by either the Select Committee or even a Special Standing Committee. Given that there are probably only eight or nine weeks of this Session to go, they should introduce the revised Bill in the new Session, subject to what is said about the draft version. I am sure that that would be the best way to proceed on what is a very important and controversial Bill.
§ Mr. Clifton-Brown
My hon. Friend is one of the most knowledgeable people in this House on planning and associated matters. He is not only a qualified architect, but a member of bodies such as the Royal Town Planning Institute. Does he agree with me that the Homes Bill, which ran out of tame, constitutes a good precedent for what he has just said? It was not particularly good and contained controversial measures in respect of the seller's pack. The Government started 560 from scratch and brought it back as a new and much better Bill—the Homelessness Bill—in the next Session. Should that not be a precedent for this Bill?
§ Sir Sydney Chapman
My hon. Friend has recorded the precept for what I believe should become a very good practice. There have been four months between consideration of the Bill in Committee and today's debate, with no consideration on Report. A lot has happened to me in that time. My hon. Friend kindly referred to my being a fellow of the Royal Town Planning Institute, but in fact I am now a retired fellow of that organisation. I ask the Government seriously to consider withdrawing the current Bill, even at this eleventh hour, and introducing a new one in the next Session.
§ Mr. Mark Hoban (Fareham)
I wish to amplify the concern, raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown), about the uncertainty that carry-over of the Bill will give rise to among borough councils. In particular, I cite the example of my own Fareham borough council, whose existing local plan expires in 2006. In April, officials from the Government office for the south-east advised the council that it needed to use elements in the Bill before us to go through the process of drawing up what they said should be a local development framework, thereby mirroring the language in the Bill. They also highlighted the fact that various other elements of the Bill should be incorporated as part of the preparation of the LDF. They referred to the need for the regional spatial strategy, the potential of a sub-regional strategy for south Hampshire in informing LDF preparation, and the need for an accompanying statement of community involvement.
For some borough councils whose plans expire in 2006, the carry-over of this Bill raises the issue of what they should do next. Do they follow the guidance set out in previous planning legislation, or the guidance set out in the Bill? There is no guarantee that the Bill will be passed in its current form, or that these components will still be there when it becomes law. Councils throughout the country will be seeking an assurance from the Minister today on what action they should take. It is certainly the view of Fareham borough council that the Bill needs to be in force in March 2005—the scheduled date for publication of the draft LDF for Fareham. Along with other borough councils, developers and residents, Fareham borough council is looking for certainty from this process. The carry-over of the Bill puts that certainty at risk, and the Government need to provide much greater explanation of their intentions for its future shape, particularly in the light of the Chancellor's comments during yesterday's statement on the euro.
§ Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst)
This debate justifies our very worst fears about the whole concept of carry-over, which, of course, was introduced under the ghastly rubric of modernisation. Some of us have come to despise that word, because it is reached for increasingly readily by those who want to diminish the effectiveness of this House of Commons with regard to the Government of the day.
561 In a peculiar way, this motion has managed to combine cock-up and conspiracy. We used to think that they were alternatives in the political lexicon, but this motion involves a combination of the two concepts. What started as a legislative cock-up has had to be translated by the Government into a conspiracy in order to try to persuade us that it is all supposed to be for the good, which it patently is not.
I want to refute in the clearest possible terms the reasons that the Leader of the House gave for this motion. He began by saying that there was enormous pressure of business; indeed, it was one of his main arguments. Any of us who spends time in this House—I wish that all Members did so, but sadly they do not; these days only a proportion do so—will be all too well aware that the one thing that the Government have not experienced in the calendar year of 2003 is pressure of business.
Goodness knows, we seem to move effortlessly from one recess to another. Friday sittings, other than those for private Member's Bills, have been abolished. We now all rush to go home early every evening. So although the Government say that we have pressure of business and pressure of time, that is patently not the case. Even when we are here, we have an endless succession of undoubtedly important—and to many, undoubtedly welcome—debates on all sorts of subjects. Yes, there were debates on Iraq, as there should have been, and there were other debates as well. But pressure of business is the one thing that the Government do not have in this Parliament, particularly in this Session.
The Leader of the House then said—with impertinence, if I may say so—that he wants to give greater opportunity for scrutiny. In an admirable opening speech for the official Opposition, my hon. Friend the Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown) pointed out that the very opposite is the case, and that generically and systematically, under the so-called modernisation process, the Government are determined arbitrarily and increasingly to restrict the amount of debate available to Members of Parliament—Opposition Members, and, indeed, Government Members—in properly scrutinising Bills.
That was added to by the impertinence of the Chairman of the Select Committee, the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Bennett), who said with complete insouciance and with an absolutely straight face that the Opposition's job is to fit their deliberations into the artificial straitjacket imposed by the Government. That may be welcome to modernisers, but it is certainly a new doctrine as far as I am concerned. Arising directly from this motion appears to be the idea that we should do things very differently from how we did them in the good old days, when the hon. Gentleman was a distinguished member of the then Opposition. The idea then was that the Opposition determined the timetable of legislation. Only when some 150 to 200 hours had been spent on major Bills—the hon. Gentleman will remember this—did the Government reluctantly reach for the guillotine. Now we have the systematic use of the guillotine, viciously timetabling Bills from the outset.
§ Matthew Green
I have some sympathy with what the right hon. Gentleman is saying, but if that is the case 562 why was there no request from the Conservatives to extend sittings in Committee beyond 7 o'clock, given that some sittings could have been so extended if the Committee had wished?
§ Mr. Forth
I am assured by my hon. Friend the Member for Cotswold that there was such a request, and I would hope that he systematically asks for extra time in all Committees, in order to provide for more scrutiny. However, I am not going to get involved in a factual dispute; my hon. Friend will doubtless sort this out later with the Minister—outside, in the traditional way.
My point is more fundamental. The Government—in the shape of the Leader of the House and, doubtless, in a moment, the Minister—stand before us and arbitrarily restrict the time available for scrutiny in Committee. The Bill is then allowed to lapse and sit idle for months on end while the Government are twiddling their thumbs and offering any number of recesses. The Leader of the House then says that the motion is necessary and that the Bill has to be carried over into another Session because it has not been adequately scrutinised. We certainly agree with that. The Government claim that they are being generous and provide more time in a new Session. That amounts to, and has confirmed, the very worst of our fears about what the carry-over concept would produce.
We then heard the contribution of the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler). Liberal Democrats are known for many attributes, but I shall not go into many of them today. However, the hon. Gentleman rather touchingly displayed one that I have noticed in him before—a sort of generous naivety. He complained that when he signed up to all this modernisation nonsense, he thought that the Government would consult him about what would happen.
§ Mr. Tyler rose—
§ Mr. Forth
Just a moment, I have not finished yet. The hon. Gentleman then said, rather pathetically—I almost felt sorry for him—that he felt that he had not been properly consulted, that the Government seemed to be doing exactly what they pleased, and that he, a representative of the Liberal Democrats, had been cut out of the whole process. All I can say is that he and his hon. Friends started out believing, from 1997 onwards, that they were partners with the Government, but it has come to a pretty pass now, has it not? I shall now give him an opportunity to deny my accusation of naivety.
§ Mr. Forth
That will look okay in Hansard.
The chain of events are all closely and causally related, and they all come back time and again to the fundamental fact that the Government have been determined systematically to reduce the House's ability properly to scrutinise legislation. The Government also want to combine the restriction of time available in Committee with the flexibility to allow them to carry Bills over from one Session to another whenever they see fit. This is the first explicit example, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cotswold pointed out in his opening speech, it has come about for the worst reasons. That is why we are compelled to resist the motion.
§ Sir Paul Beresford
My hon. Friend fails to mention the double-edged sword: the Leader of the House says that more time is available, but there is more to look into.
§ Mr. Forth
Yes, indeed. The facts are clear. Sadly, in respect of this large and important Bill, the Committee was able to scrutinise only a small proportion of its contents. That pattern is repeated time and again and ever more systematically. The reason for it is not filibustering by the Opposition. We do not need to filibuster. Goodness knows, some of us are perfectly capable of it from time to time, and I have made a modest contribution to it myself, so I know whereof I speak. However, we do not have to do it any more. All we have to do is the proper and responsible job of the official Opposition—attempting to scrutinise legislation, representing legitimate outside interests, looking for mistakes and errors and trying to improve legislation. Yet on almost every occasion, we run out of time because the Government have already taken a view at the beginning of every Bill about how much time it should take to consider it. According to the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish, the Chairman of the Select Committee, we the Opposition should fit ourselves into that Government time. That is not how I envisage the relationship between the House and the Government, or, indeed, the Opposition and the Government.
It is perfectly clear that the motion is before us for the wrong reasons. If we were to agree to it, we would be endorsing the views of the Leader of the House, which we most certainly do not. We would also be setting a precedent, whereby the Government could declare that carry-over is passing seamlessly into the proceedings of the House and can therefore legitimately be returned to time and again. That is not the case. We resist it strongly.
I shall now conclude in order to give the Minister the maximum possible time in this short debate, which I hope he will use to the full to answer the substantial questions put to him by my hon. Friends, by the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish, the eminent Chairman of the Select Committee, and by the hon. Member for North Cornwall.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Tony McNulty)
I start by thanking the Opposition for their magnanimity, which is very refreshing. I shall try to deal—if not by the tail of this debate, then at the start of the next one—with the issues that have been raised and to provide detail on the specific questions.
This is not by any means a deeply flawed and poorly drafted Bill. The Opposition can have their day on that, but it is not. When the hon. Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown) talked about Lord Lucan being reported missing, I thought that he was referring to the Plaid Cymru contribution to the Standing Committee, which had 12 sittings without the Plaid Cymru Member once showing his face. That is a matter of some regret.
There has been a degree of confusion about whether pre-legislative scrutiny took place. In fact, what occurred—the White Paper, consultation and passing responses to the Select Committee—worked well. As my hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Bennett) suggested, it informed the Bill in many respects. The hon. Member for Cotswold traduces the consultation process, but the professions and everyone else applauded us for the whole process from Green Paper to the Bill and for many of the changes therein. I shall return to the transition period later.
I have some sympathy with the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir Sydney Chapman) who, I freely admit, is the leading expert in the Chamber on planning in the professional sense, as he showed time and again in Committee. I recall that we had great fun on the Greater London Authority Bill, which went on for a considerable period. The notion of having a consolidation Bill at some stage is attractive, in view of the many changes made, but that is not a matter for me.
The hon. Member for Cotswold and my hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish made an important point about the transition. We originally expected commencement to come into force in spring 2004, with hoped-for Royal Assent by March 2004. If the subsequent motion is passed, we expect the new system to be up and running by June, so commencement should be but a couple of months delayed. Reasonable points were made about the problems of local planning authorities in the coming months or years in respect of transition. We cannot presume the will of Parliament, but if the motions are secured, we will write to local authorities in the next couple of weeks to set out clearly the detailed transitional arrangements for the new system.
Before I move on to the substance of the reasons why we need a roll-over, I want to tell my hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish that, far from slowing down the delivery mechanisms for the Thames gateway and sustainable communities, what we are doing will speed up the process and bind any number of partners in the public or private sector into the process. I shall return to that matter shortly or, if necessary, in the next debate. As an aside, I might mention that although my visit has been cancelled twice, and I have yet to get to the glory that is BedZED down in Sutton, I agree with my hon. Friend that building regulations are an appropriate way, among others, to secure ecologically and environmentally sound developments.
565 I note the points made by the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler), but as the Leader of the House said, this is an exception to the spirit of our Standing Orders relating to roll-overs.
I admire the consistency and honesty of the hon. Member for Mole Valley (Sir Paul Beresford). I assume that he opposes this and the subsequent motion because he thinks that this is a horrible little Bill. That is a perfectly reasonable position, but I have to tell him that local government does not agree and certainly does not greet the £350 million planning delivery grant with dismay.
In answer to the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet—although this is a matter for debate, which does not get us anywhere and is certainly not germane to the motion—let me be polite and say that the extent to which we dwelt, at length and ad nauseam, on terminal 5 at Heathrow in Committee could by some less than generous souls be called filibustering, at worst, or at best irrelevant. We had a tad too much of that in Committee. The hon. Gentleman asked whether the roll-over would mean that the whole Bill would be recommitted for decision, and the answer is yes. We could have been pernickety and said that only the clauses that will be affected by amendment and concession, and the new clauses, will be recommitted, but we have said that we will send the whole Bill back. The hon. Gentleman also asked whether any changes had been made to the substance of the Bill since the end of the Committee's consideration, and again the answer is yes.
I shall pass on the invitation from the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) to talk about the confluence of cock-up and conspiracy, but I admire his consistency. He is against timetabling and against modernisation in all its forms and glory, and that is a reasonable position.
I shall go into more detail on the substance on the next motion, as I explain why we need the extra six months, but the bulk of the amendments that we will table for the consideration of the reconvened Standing Committee will be technical amendments to the existing Bill—as the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet said—including my final and grudging concession that "complusory" and "satisified" are not proper words. The Bill has been trawled for other spelling mistakes, and I promised a vicious attack on parliamentary counsel, but there were no others. I congratulate the hon. Member for Ludlow (Matthew Green) who has done the House and the planning profession great service by recognising those two spelling mistakes.
§ Matthew Green
Will the Minister now concede that he should have accepted my amendments at the time?
§ Mr. McNulty
Absolutely not. Call me a purist, but there could have been 12 mistakes. Far be it from me to assume that the subsequent Government amendments would be accepted. It was far more appropriate that the hon. Gentleman showed us the way, and we have now gone through the Bill with a fine-toothed comb. As one might have anticipated from the Liberal Democrats, they have elevated pedantry to an art form. That is not a huge surprise.
566 Most of the amendments to the Bill will be technical or tidying up ones, but I am more than happy to go through the detail with Opposition Front Benchers at a later stage.
§ Sir Sydney Chapman
If the motions are passed, can the Minister tell the House when the new revised Bill will be printed?
§ Mr. McNulty
I shall come to that point in a moment. About a third of the amendments will be technical or drafting. A further third will be as a consequence of some of the concessions that I said that we would look at, such as the issue of local development orders that lift planning restrictions in a particular area. When the local development order was lifted, the question was at what point the restrictions would be reimposed if parts of the zone were at various stages of development and building. The hon. Member for Mole Valley and others made that point. In the context of the joint system that may or may not be in place between statement and development principle, and outline planning permission, there was some confusion, not least in my mind, and some concern was expressed by the professions. We will consider that issue. We will also consider the period of consent, the loss payment changes in compulsory purchase cases and other issues. I would be happy to talk through those changes with hon. Members.
As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House said, to some extent the delay has allowed us to consider Crown immunity in detail. We have wanted to legislate on that issue for some time, and it has been in our manifesto since 1994. A dozen or 15 clauses will be added on that subject, and some six or seven further will tidy up—at the behest not least of the hon. Member for Cotswold—the compulsory purchase element of the Bill. We will perform all the tidying up that can be done this side of the Law Commission reporting. There will also be one, or at most two, new clauses on unitary development corporations and what they can do to be far more responsive to local authorities.
I would envisage that all that hangs on the Bill—such as guidance, circulars and statutory instruments—will be presented in draft form for consideration early after we return from the recess, and certainly well before the Bill is recommitted.
§ Mr. Clifton-Brown
My hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir Sydney Chapman) raised an important point. If the Government's intention is to recommit the Bill to a Standing Committee as soon as we return in September, it is important that the Bill be published before we start the recess, so that we can table amendments.
§ Mr. McNulty
I am not sure when the Bill will be printed, but I will find out and pass the information to the hon. Gentleman. I will ensure that the Bill is printed in good time, because I accept his point. I would envisage that the statutory instruments and other elements will be published by September and that all the necessary Government amendments will be tabled then, to allow time for consideration. [Interruption.] Yes, we are. We are sitting for two weeks in September, because of modernisation. I envisage that the recommittal of the 567 Bill will happen in October, so that there will be plenty of time. I am more than happy to meet Opposition Front Benchers in September or before the end of the recess to give further details.
The Committee will consider technical amendments and Government concessions, compulsory purchase orders, unitary development corporations and Crown immunity. That is four elements, rather than six, as the hon. Member for Cotswold suggested. It is in the Government's interest that the new elements, which will constitute about a third of the overall package of elements for consideration—[Interruption.] I have been passed a piece of paper and it has thrown me entirely. I apologise.
It is in our interests to secure the new elements in Committee, but it is not for me to talk about the consideration of proceedings motion. I used to be a member of the dark brotherhood, but I am no longer involved in the usual channels. However, in this case, I would argue for a less rigorous approach than the way in which the traditional 12 sessions were carved up the first time. My only caveat would be that the Government should secure discussion of the newer elements, after which we would be fairly relaxed. We can also discuss that point.
The main question is whether the Bill will be much better after a further eight sessions of scrutiny and some Government amendments. The answer is an unequivocal yes. Will the planning process be better for the carry-over being passed? Again, the answer is yes. When the Bill comes back to the Floor of the House on Report, after recommittal and Committee stage, I hope that it will be as clean as possible and that we will have no Government amendments, let alone whole screeds of them. Obviously, however, I cannot guarantee that. That must be a consequence of significant further scrutiny in Committee.
§ Mr. McNulty
I freely accept that I am generously naive. Generosity may be difficult for me, but I can do naiveté quite well.
At the end of the process of carry-over and productive scrutiny, the Bill in all its glory will be far stronger, as will the planning system. If the Opposition join me in that scrutiny, I will welcome that. I should love to be able to say that the 12 weeks that we spent in Committee were terrific fun, but they were not. It was reassuring that Plaid Cymru Members did not bother to turn up at all. I should be interested to be a fly on the wall when they use the usual channels to ask for representation for nationalists in the eight sittings that will be held but, again, I am pleased to say that that is not a matter for me.
The order is an exception to the normal interpretation of Standing Orders in respect of carry-over, but it will mean that an important piece of legislation will receive greater scrutiny by the House. As a consequence the Bill will be far better—
It being one and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Question, pursuant to Order [29 October 2002].
§ The House divided: Ayes 279, Noes 162.571
|Division No. 221]||[2.11 pm|
|Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)||Edwards, Huw|
|Alexander, Douglas||Efford, Clive|
|Allen, Graham||Ellman, Mrs Louise|
|Armstrong, rh Ms Hilary||Etherington, Bill|
|Atherton, Ms Candy||Farrelly, Paul|
|Atkins, Charlotte||Fitzpatrick, Jim|
|Austin, John||Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna|
|Bailey, Adrian||Flynn, Paul (Newport W)|
|Barnes, Harry||Follett, Barbara|
|Battle, John||Foster, rh Derek|
|Beckett, rh Margaret||Foster, Michael (Worcester)|
|Begg, Miss Anne||Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings
|Bennett, Andrew||Foulkes, rh George|
|Benton, Joe (Bootle)||Francis, Dr. Hywel|
|Berry, Roger||Gapes, Mike (Ilford S)|
|Best, Harold||Gardiner, Barry|
|Betts, Clive||Gerrard, Neil|
|Blackman, Liz||Gilroy, Linda|
|Blears, Ms Hazel||Godsiff, Roger|
|Bradley, rh Keith (Withington)||Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)|
|Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)||Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)|
|Bryant, Chris||Grogan, John|
|Buck, Ms Karen||Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)|
|Burden, Richard||Hall, Patrick (Bedford)|
|Burgon, Colin||Hamilton, David (Midlothian)|
|Burnham, Andy||Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)|
|Cairns, David||Hanson, David|
|Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)||Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)|
|Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)||Havard, Dai (Merthyr Tydfil &
|Caton, Martin||Healey, John|
|Cawsey, Ian (Brigg)||Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)|
|Challen, Colin||Hepburn, Stephen|
|Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)||Heppell, John|
|Chaytor, David||Hermon, Lady|
|Clapham, Michael||Hesford, Stephen|
|Clark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough)||Hill, Keith (Streatham)|
|Clark, Dr. Lynda (Edinburgh
|Clark, Paul (Gillingham)||Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall)|
|Clelland, David||Hoon, rh Geoffrey|
|Clwyd, Ann (Cynon V)||Hope, Phil (Corby)|
|Coffey, Ms Ann||Howarth, George (Knowsley N &
|Colman, Tony||Howells, Dr. Kim|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton N)||Hughes, Beverley (Stretford &
|Cook, rh Robin (Livingston)|
|Corston, Jean||Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)|
|Cox, Tom (Tooting)||Humble, Mrs Joan|
|Cranston, Ross||Hurst, Alan (Braintree)|
|Crausby, David||Hutton, rh John|
|Cryer, Ann (Keighley)||Iddon, Dr. Brian|
|Cryer, John (Hornchurch)||Illsley, Eric|
|Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S)||Irranca-Davies, Huw|
|Cunningham, Tony (Workington)||Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead &
|Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire|
|Dalyell, Tam||Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)|
|Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)||Jamieson, David|
|Davidson, Ian||Jenkins, Brian|
|Davies, rh Denzil (Llanelli)||Johnson, Alan (Hull W)|
|Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)||Jones, Helen (Warrington N)|
|Dawson, Hilton||Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)|
|Dean, Mrs Janet||Jones, Kevan (N Durham)|
|Denham, rh John||Jowell, rh Tessa|
|Dhanda, Parmjit||Joyce, Eric (Falkirk W)|
|Dismore, Andrew||Kaufman, rh Gerald|
|Dobson, rh Frank||Keeble, Ms Sally|
|Donohoe, Brian H.||Keen, Alan (Feltham)|
|Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W)||Keen, Ann (Brentford)|
|Drew, David (Stroud)||Kemp, Fraser|
|Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)||Khabra, Piara S.|
|Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)||Kidney, David|
|Kilfoyle, Peter||Rooney, Terry|
|King, Andy (Rugby)||Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|Knight, Jim (S Dorset)||Ruane, Chris|
|Kumar, Dr. Ashok||Ruddock, Joan|
|Ladyman, Dr. Stephen||Ryan, Joan (Enfield N)|
|Lammy, David||Salter, Martin|
|Lawrence, Mrs Jackie||Sarwar, Mohammad|
|Lazarowicz, Mark||Savidge, Malcolm|
|Levitt, Tom (High Peak)||Sawford, Phil|
|Linton, Martin||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Love, Andrew||Shaw, Jonathan|
|Lucas, Ian (Wrexham)||Sheridan, Jim|
|McAvoy, Thomas||Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)|
|McCabe, Stephen||Smith, rh Andrew (Oxford E)|
|McCafferty, Chris||Smith, Geraldine (Morecambe &
|McCartney, rh Ian|
|McDonagh, Siobhain||Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)|
|MacDonald, Calum||Soley, Clive|
|McDonnell, John||Southworth, Helen|
|McGuire, Mrs Anne||Spellar, rh John|
|McIsaac, Shona||Squire, Rachel|
|McKechin, Ann||Starkey, Dr. Phyllis|
|McKenna, Rosemary||Steinberg, Gerry|
|Mackinlay, Andrew||Stevenson, George|
|McNamara, Kevin||Stewart, David (Inverness E &
|McWilliam, John||Stewart, Ian (Eccles)|
|Mahmood, Khalid||Stinchcombe, Paul|
|Mallaber, Judy||Stoate Dr Howard|
|Mann, John (Bassetlaw)||Stringer, Graham|
|Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)||Sutcliffe Gerry|
|Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)||Tami Mark (Alyn)|
|Marshall, David (Glasgow
|Taylor Dari (Stockton S)|
|Taylor David (NW Leics)|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Taylor Dr Richard (Wyre F)|
|Marshall-Andrews, Robert||Thomas Gareth (Harrow W)|
|Martlew, Eric||Timms, Stephen|
|Meacher, rh Michael||Tipping, Paddy|
|Merron, Gillian||Todd, Mark (S Derbyshire)|
|Milburn rh Alan||Touhig, Don (Islwyn)|
|Miller, Andrew||Trickett, Jon|
|Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)||Truswell, paul|
|Moffatt, Laura||Turner Dennis (Wolverhton SE)|
|Mole, Chris||Turner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton
|Moonie, Dr. Lewis|
|Moran, Margaret||Turner, Neil (Wigan)|
|Morgan, Julie||Twing, Stephen (Enfield)|
|Morley, Elliot||Vaz, Keith (Leicester E)|
|Munn, Ms Meg||Vis, Dr. Rudi|
|Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)||Walley, Ms Joan|
|Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)||Ward, Claire|
|Naysmith, Dr. Doug||Wareing, Robert N.|
|Norris, Dan (Wansdyke)||Watson, Tom (W Bromwich E)|
|O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)||Watts, David|
|O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)||White, Brian|
|O'Hara, Edward||Whitehead, Dr. Alan|
|Olner Bill||Wicks, Malcolm|
|Organ, Diana||Williams, rh Alan (Swansea W)|
|Owen, Albert||Williams, Betty (Conwy)|
|Perham, Linda||Wilson, Brian|
|Picking, Anne||Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster
|Pike, Peter (Burnley)|
|Pollard, Kerry||Wood, Mike (Batley)|
|Pope, Greg (Hyndburn)||Woodward, Shaun|
|Pound, Stephen||Woolas, Phil|
|Prescott, rh John||Worthington, Tony|
|Primarolo, rh Dawn||Wright, Anthony D. (Gt
|Purnell, James||Wright, David (Telford)|
|Quinn, Lawrie||Wyatt, Derek|
|Rapson, Syd (Portsmouth N)|
|Reed, Andy (Loughborough)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Reid, rh Dr. John (Hamilton N &
|Mr. Nick Ainger and|
|Mr. Ivor Caplin|
|Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)||Horam, John (Orpington)|
|Allan, Richard||Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)|
|Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)||Jack, rh Michael|
|Baldry, Tony||Jenkin, Bernard|
|Barker, Gregory||Johnson, Boris (Henley)|
|Baron, John (Billericay)||Keetch, Paul|
|Barrett, John||Kirkbride, Miss Julie|
|Bellingham, Henry||Kirkwood, Sir Archy|
|Beresford, Sir Paul||Knight, rh Greg (E Yorkshire)|
|Blunt, Crispin||Laing, Mrs Eleanor|
|Boswell, Tim||Lansley, Andrew|
|Brady, Graham||Laws, David (Yeovil)|
|Brake, Tom (Carshalton)||Lewis, Dr. Julian (New Forest E)|
|Brazier, Julian||Lilley, rh Peter|
|Browning, Mrs Angela||Llwyd, Elfyn|
|Bruce, Malcolm||Loughton, Tim|
|Burnett, John||Luff, Peter (M-Worcs)|
|Burns, Simon||Mackay, rh Andrew|
|Burstow, Paul||Maclean, rh David|
|Burt, Alistair||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Butterfill, John||Malins, Humfrey|
|Cable, Dr. Vincent||Maples, John|
|Calton, Mrs Patsy||Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury &
|Campbell, rh Menzies (NE Fife)|
|Carmichael, Alistair||Maude, rh Francis|
|Cash, William||Mawhinney, rh Sir Brian|
|Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping
|May, Mrs Theresa|
|Chope, Christopher||Mitchell, Andrew (Sutton
|Clarke, rh Kenneth (Rushcliffe)|
|Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey||Moore, Michael|
|Collins, Tim||Moss, Malcolm|
|Cormack, Sir Patrick||Murrison, Dr. Andrew|
|Cotter, Brian||Oaten, Mark (Winchester)|
|Cran, James (Beverley)||O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)|
|Curry, rh David||Öpik, Lembit|
|Davey, Edward (Kingston)||Osborne, George (Tatton)|
|Davis, rh David (Haltemprice &
|Djanogly, Jonathan||Paterson, Owen|
|Dodds, Nigel||Pickles, Eric|
|Donaldson, Jeffrey M.||Price, Adam (E Carmarthen &
|Duncan, Alan (Rutland)||Prisk, Mark (Hertford)|
|Duncan, Peter (Galloway)||Randall, John|
|Duncan Smith, rh lain||Redwood, rh John|
|Evans, Nigel||Rendel, David|
|Ewing, Annabelle||Robathan, Andrew|
|Fabricant, Michael||Robertson, Angus (Moray)|
|Fallon, Michael||Robertson, Hugh (Faversham &
|Field, Mark (Cities of London &
|Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)|
|Flight, Howard||Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)|
|Forth, rh Eric||Roe, Mrs Marion|
|Foster, Don (Bath)||Ruffley, David|
|Fox, Dr. Liam||Russell, Bob (Colchester)|
|Francois, Mark||Salmond, Alex|
|Gale, Roger (N Thanet)||Sanders, Adrian|
|Gibb, Nick (Bognor Regis)||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Gidley, Sandra||Selous, Andrew|
|Goodman, Paul||Shepherd, Richard|
|Grayling, Chris||Simpson, Keith (M-Norfolk)|
|Green, Matthew (Ludlow)||Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns &
|Grieve, Dominic||Soames, Nicholas|
|Gummer, rh John||Spelman, Mrs Caroline|
|Hammond, Philip||Spicer, Sir Michael|
|Harvey, Nick||Spink, Bob (Castle Point)|
|Hawkins, Nick||Spring, Richard|
|Hayes, John (S Holland)||Stanley, rh Sir John|
|Heath, David||Streeter, Gary|
|Heathcoat-Amory, rh David||Stunell, Andrew|
|Hendry, Charles||Syms, Robert|
|Hogg, rh Douglas||Taylor, John (Solihull)|
|Holmes, Paul||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Taylor, Sir Teddy||Williams, Hywel (Caernarfon)|
|Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)||Williams, Roger (Brecon)|
|Thurso, John||Willis, Phil|
|Tredinnick, David||Wilshire, David|
|Trimble, rh David||Winterton, Ann (Congleton)|
|Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)||Wishart, Pete|
|Tyler, Paul (N Cornwall)||Yeo, Tim (S Suffolk)|
|Viggers, Peter||Young, rh Sir George|
|Webb, Steve (Northavon)|
|Weir, Michael||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann||Mr. Mark Hoban and|
|Wiggin, Bill||Angela Watkinson|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.