HC Deb 19 April 2004 vol 420 cc71-85

Lords amendment.. No. 21.

Keith Hill

I beg to move, That the House disagrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst)

With this it will be convenient to discuss Lords amendments Nos. 22 and 23 and the Government motions to disagree thereto.

Keith Hill

The Government have been clear from the outset that one of the key elements of our planning reforms is for the recommendations of the independent inspector, following an independent examination, to be the final stage in the preparation of a development plan document. The amendments intend to retain the status quo, which is unacceptable for the following reasons.

Taken together, amendments Nos. 21, 22 and 23 would remove the important innovation of binding inspectors' reports on development plan documents at the local level. At the same time, amendment No. 21 would also muddle up the provisions for adopting local development documents that are not development plan documents, and which are known as supplementary planning documents. The amendment would result in local authorities having to take account of the inspectors' recommendations on a supplementary planning document even though there is no independent examination of those documents.

Binding reports form a crucial foundation in the proposed local planning system, and a number of key features support that function. First, there is the concept of front loading. That means that the local planning authority will reach decisions on key matters early in the plan making process. The local planning authority will start by identifying and taking the community's views and interested parties' ideas on all the potential options, and then deciding what it thinks is best for its area.

Peter Bottomley (Worthing, West) (Con)

Will the Minister give one or two illustrative examples of where things went wrong under the existing process?

Keith Hill

In some cases the existing process has led to the late introduction of elements in local plans, characteristically the late introduction of new proposals for developers, and on some occasions the introduction of unpopular proposals for development put forward by local authorities. It is precisely to obviate such risks and what might be described as a form of abuse of the existing system that we are introducing our present proposals for the powerful front loading of the system for new and stronger elements of community involvement. It should be borne in mind throughout the process that the inspector is all the time responding to various representations and inputs that emerge at various stages of the local planning process. In many respects the proposed system offers far more safeguards to local people in terms of what is likely to appear in the plan than the existing system.

6.45 pm
Peter Bottomley

There is the question of what happens while inspectors hear what people have to say and there is the question of what happens afterwards. My local authorities, both at district and county level, have asked what would happen under the Government's proposals—unless they accept the purpose of some of the Lords amendments—were the inspector to make a plain mistake. Leaving aside the fact that the Minister has not dealt with what would happen after an inspector's report, what would happen if the inspector made a mistake? How could it be put right?

Keith Hill

The hon. Gentleman raises an issue of concern that has also been taken up elsewhere and on which I think that I can reassure him. The local planning authority already sees the inspector's draft report and can point out factual errors. That situation exists now and we propose that it should continue under the present proposals. I hope that that serves to some degree to reassure the hon. Gentleman.

I was saying that it is the role of the local planning authority to take soundings, to consult local communities and to hear the views of interested parties on all the potential options and then to decide what it thinks is best for its own area. The job of the local planning authority is to devise policies and proposals for the development plan document for its area, involving its community fully in the process. Representations made to the authority on its preferred options will be considered by it. I emphasise that no inspector is involved at this stage and it is from this consideration that the authority will prepare its development plan document to submit for independent examination.

We believe that the local authority will be well placed to do this with the procedures that we are introducing to ensure early debate and decisions. There will be a strong disincentive for anyone to put off raising controversial proposals in the hope that they have a better chance of succeeding if sprung on people at a late stage, whether that is a developer or the authority wishing to avoid coming to a difficult or potentially unpopular decision without involving the community.

Secondly, the investment by the community and others in making representations on a development plan document, and participating in the independent examination, will now always be worth while. No longer will the community and others face the entirely unjustifiable position where all their input is taken forward through the inspector's recommendations, but then ignored by the authority, which may decide to do something completely different. That would undermine our intention to give communities a greater say in plan making and to secure their buy-in.

Finally, the inspector's job is to determine whether a development plan document satisfies the legal requirements on its preparation and whether it is sound. The inspector's starting point will be that the development plan document that the authority has submitted is sound unless evidence proves otherwise.

Anyone seeking a substantive change to a development plan document will need to show that the document is unsound and that the change will render it sound. That is also a requirement of the inspector. I emphasise again that any changes that the inspector recommends will not simply reflect his or her views, rather than those of the local authority, but will be changes that are needed to achieve a sound plan that is tested against the criteria for soundness that it has to meet. If, as a result of the inspector's consideration of soundness, he or she believes that the development plan document should be changed significantly—for example, as a result of insufficient evidence—that could happen only if the examination is reconvened or if the development plan document is referred back to the local planning authority for further consideration.

Matthew Green

Is the Minister entirely confident that inspectors, who on the whole do a very good job, always manage to interpret planning guidance correctly? In some cases, the local authority's interpretation of Government and regional planning guidance has differed from that of the inspector, and I think that the Minister would have been inclined to agree with the local authority. Is he confident that the inspector is always right?

Keith Hill

First, I have a great deal of confidence in the inspectorate. My observational experience, both as a citizen and as a Minister, is that the quality of the work produced by the inspectorate is, by and large, very impressive.

Secondly. the proposals, especially on the concept of soundness, are not being unleashed on inspectors without preparation. Indeed, I recently attended a conference of the inspectorate where a great deal of practical training on the provisions of the Bill was already taking place. I am reasonably confident that there will be a high level of preparation for and understanding of the contents and definitions of the Bill.

Finally, if the inspector gets it wrong, the local authority has other recourses with which the hon. Member for Ludlow (Matthew Green) is familiar. The process incorporates a large number of safeguards and fail-safes.

If there is still insufficient evidence for the inspector to recommend a change that he or she thinks should be made to a development plan document, the inspector will not be able to recommend that change in his or her report. If that happens, the inspector will only be able to advise the authority of his or her view that it should revise its development plan document or prepare a fresh one to take the matter forward. Those principles will be set out clearly in the final version of planning policy statement 12.

As we have said on many previous occasions, binding inspectors' reports are a key mechanism for speeding up the plan-making system, because the modifications stage, which usually takes six months or more, will no longer be needed. Speeding up the process is vital if our communities are to have the up-to-date plans that they and their areas need.

I fear that the amendments are in direct contradiction to our policy on this issue, and we cannot agree to them.

Mr. Robert Syms (Poole) (Con)

I start by declaring my interest, as recorded in the Register of Members' Interests, as a director of a family property company with interests in the building industry.

I listened carefully to the Minister's remarks, but he has not yet convinced me that the Government are right on this issue. One of the disadvantages of coming late to a debate is that one has to go back through the papers to find out about the Government's intentions. I want to try to get the architecture right in terms of understanding where the binding inspectors' reports fit in. Initially, a national spatial plan strategy will send directions to the regional spatial strategies—although the Minister said earlier that that would differ according to whether there was an elected assembly or a non-elected regional planning body—and that will set the local development frameworks. Then, the local authority has to produce its local development scheme, to come into force by the end of 2004, which lists all the documents to be prepared and the timetable for doing so. The authority also has to produce a statement of community involvement so that the public feels confident that they can be involved in the whole process.

That eventually leads to the preparation of local development documents, including maps and action plans for what is to happen in the locality. There is also the option of the supplementary planning documents that the Minister mentioned, which do not have to undergo independent examination. At that point, the local authority has to produce its local development plan documents, with some degree of latitude as to the degree of detail. Community involvement will be an important part of that. At the end of the process, an inspector has to look at the local development documents.

In essence, the Government want to introduce what Lord Rooker called the important innovation of binding inspectors' reports on development plan documents."—[Official Report, House of Lords,1 March 2004; Vol. 1940, c. 454.] The philosophy of the measure is much more top down than bottom up. An inspector will have the ability substantially to alter documents produced by the local authority that have gone through the local consultation process.

There is widespread concern about how the system will operate. The Local Government Association fears that the proposals will undermine local democracy, accountability, and the freedoms and flexibilities the government says it wants to grant local government in order to make localism a reality. It says: There will be no opportunity for local authorities to correct errors of fact and misinterpretation which creep into many an inspector's report but which can be ironed out in the current system without fuss. There could be significant implications for parts of the plan not actually formally under public examination and on which the local authority will not have had chance to make representations. Local authorities are also likely to find themselves in a difficult position if they unable to challenge the Inspector's decisions, which may prove to be contrary to national and regional planning guidance or not adequately reflect local circumstances. There will be wider implications. The inspector's report will have a direct impact on Community strategies and other local strategies outside planning and the local authority will have no recourse to challenge the inspector's recommendations if they are contrary to the objectives of the community strategy. It gives an example of how things could go wrong: In Birmingham, the Local Planning Inspector recently recommended that the City Council's Unitary Development Plan should remove key employment sites from the plan even though this was contrary to both current and emerging regional planning guidance for the area. Such an outcome would have significant implications for local planning authorities under the new system as there do not appear to be safeguards to prevent this happening and local authorities would not be in a position to challenge the Inspector's decision. The processes for rectifying issues of this kind are likely to be messy and convoluted.

As the Minister said, the only option that will be left open to local authorities is judicial review, but many authorities—certainly in Poole—would have to consider the costs involved in that before trying to challenge what an inspector wants to do.

Although I agree with the hon. Member for Ludlow that planning inspectors are generally competent and good at what they do, mistakes are made, and many reports contain factual errors. By making that element of the process binding, the Government are giving it an importance within the planning architecture that could significantly change what local development documents are intended to be. The Government should consider the Lords amendments as a great help because leaving the final say to local authorities would be consistent with what all parties want—more power for local authorities. The amendments would be the most effective method of ensuring that the right decisions were made at the end of the process. A local authority could consider an inspector's decision and amend its plan accordingly if it believed that the inspector had a good point.

7 pm

It has been said in the debate that an inspector could not simply implement his views but would have to examine the whole process. He would have to consider the public consultation, ascertain what issues had been raised and make amendments on that basis. However, as we all know, issues are raised in local plans and consultations that have strong proponents for and against them. Controversial decisions could ensue through the Government's making that part of the process binding. In another place, Lord Rooker clearly stated that the Government's intention was to speed up the planning process and that the proposal was part of that. Yet we are considering the last part of the process and it is unlikely that the provision would speed it up. If the consequence of speeding up the process is diminishing local democracy and perhaps making it more difficult to rectify mistakes—we all know that mistakes are made—the Government may come to regret it.

We are considering complex planning architecture, with all sorts of plans and supplements popping out. I am beginning to wonder whether we shall end up with a speedier process. However, the top-down philosophy that the Government appear to be implementing in many of their planning proposals, whereby an inspector can insist on changes and judicial review is the only avenue available to a local authority that has been through all the processes and taken account of all public anxieties and representations, is unacceptable. The Government should listen carefully to what the Lords and Members of the House of Commons are saying about an issue that is important to many of our constituents.

Matthew Green

We are discussing one of the main contentious subjects in the Bill. The hon. Member for Worthing, West (Peter Bottomley) did hon. Members a great favour when he asked the Minister to give examples of problems, with the current system. The Minister had some difficulty in dealing with that. Under the new scheme, a local development plan will become a series of local development documents. The Minister knows that I support the new scheme. Under the current system, local authorities do not often reverse the inspector's decisions, for the wrong reasons.

However, let me give an example, provided by the Local Government Association, of a local authority using its power to reverse an inspector's decision about a local plan. The local authority is Birmingham, which was Labour led when the decision was reversed. Labour councillors voted for a plan, which the inspector changed. I understand that the planning inspector recently recommended that Birmingham city council's unitary development plan should remove key employment sites front the plan, even though that was contrary to current and emerging regional planning guidance for the area. Such an outcome would have significant implications for the new system.

Ninety-nine per cent. of the time, inspectors get it right but nobody is perfect and they can make mistakes. Correcting them through judicial review is expensive. Perhaps Birmingham might be able to spread the costs because it is the biggest local authority in the country, and I believe has a budget of more than £1 billion. However, most small shire districts would not contemplate resorting to judicial review against the Secretary of State—the inspector acts in the Secretary of State's name. They could not consider that route for financial reasons.

Peter Bottomley

Like other hon. Members, the hon. Gentleman will have noticed that, in another place, the Government ensured that four clauses were added so that Ministers could correct mistakes that they or planning inspectors made about planning decisions. It is odd that we are holding the current discussion on more major issues when the Government have given themselves gold-plated protection for minor slips.

Matthew Green

The hon. Gentleman makes an excellent point. All we are requesting for local authorities is a little—only an inch—of the power that the Secretary of State likes to preserve for himself. Let us consider circumstances in which the new local development documents go through all the stages and an inspector makes a ruling that is clearly against the wishes of the local authority, the local people and possibly even the Minister in whose name the inspector acts. That could undermine local democracy and accountability at the level at which it should be built into the planning system.

I want a planning system that works. The move to a series of local development documents rather than a local plan will reduce conflict because under the current system, the whole plan has to be called in if the inspector wants to make an objection. I suspect that many of the documents in isolation will not cause the same controversy as a whole plan. There should therefore be fewer public inquiries, and I welcome that.

However, I am worried that the inspectors might not get it right, and I shall provide an example. The Minister cannot come back at me and will simply go all quasi-judicial. I know he will do that, so he does not need to make the excuse later. Both my local authorities are currently preparing their local plans. They are at different stages and, although they have taken a little longer than the five years that they are supposed to take, they are both preparing them.

South Shropshire's plan is currently at inspector's report stage. As hon. Members who have followed the progress of the Bill know, South Shropshire has an innovative affordable housing policy. The Minister knows about it because I have sent him a copy and he expressed some interest in it. It is probably one of the most radical policies in the country. It suggests that, on sites of two or more houses, 50 per cent. should be affordable. The policy is included in the local plan. The local authority tried to introduce the policy previously but, on appeal, inspectors ruled in favour of builders who did not want the affordable houses. The local authority is therefore trying to introduce the policy through the local plan and the inspector is challenging the council, although he may ultimately accept it. I believe that the reason for the challenge is that the policy goes against Government guidance, which stipulates 30 per cent. affordable housing. However, as the Minister knows, 30 per cent. is only a minimum. The council is therefore right to propose 50 per cent.

South Shropshire has approximately 350 planning permissions left until 2011 but its local needs housing survey shows that it requires 1,400 affordable homes. The problem is that almost every home that is built needs to be affordable. The local authority cannot achieve that so it is aiming for 50 per cent. I hope that the inspector will not overrule that, but he could. Under the current system, the local authority has the final say, but if the policy was contained in a new development plan document on affordable housing in South Shropshire and an inspector overruled it, South Shropshire would have more executive homes and fewer affordable homes because an inspector had determined that it was not quite in line with what pertained nationally, although I believe that it is.

I know that the Minister cannot comment on that—he cannot even raise an eyebrow in case someone challenges under judicial review—but it is an example of what could go wrong with the new system and the way in which the Minister foresees it working. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. The Minister has not given any explanation of how the system is broke, so I am not sure why he is so desperate to fix it.

The Local Government Association strongly supports the Lords amendments on this issue, as does my own local authority. The chief executive of South Shropshire district council e-mailed me only a few days ago to stiffen my resolve, if it needed stiffening, on this point. Inspectors have to come in from outside; they cannot be from the locality that they are to inspect, for good reasons. There is great concern out there, however, that an inspector coming in from outside might not fully understand the nuances of local need and local development in the way that locally elected people and local officers working there on a day-to-day basis should do. In the case of South Shropshire, these concerns are coming from a council that is very pro-development.

The point of having an inspector's report is to stop a council doing anything that represents a radical departure from the plan, such as not building any affordable housing. I would welcome an inspector going in to report on such a situation. Under the current system, if a council overturns an inspector's report, that report can be taken into account in an appeal by a developer. It would be a material consideration. That is one of the most effective checks. We do not need binding reports. If a council is trying to prevent development when an inspector believes that it should take place. and the developer goes to appeal having lost a planning application, the developer should win on the basis of that material consideration, provided that all other things were equal. The current system therefore has good checks and balances built into it, but the proposed system shifts everything too much in one direction. I hope that the Minister will be prepared to give councils just a little of the power that accrues to him under the Bill.

Andrew Selous

I, too, support the Lords amendment—principally because I have been contacted by representatives of Bedfordshire county council, who wrote to me a few days ago and strongly urged me to back it, just as the hon. Member for Ludlow (Matthew Green) has been urged to back it by his local authority. The issues involved are similar to those that we debated earlier this evening when discussing other amendments, but I shall obviously not revisit those issues now. In essence, however, they relate to the undermining of local democracy and accountability, and to the fact that there will be no opportunity for local authorities to correct any errors of fact or misinterpretation that might creep into inspectors' reports.

It is also clear, as my hon. Friend the Member for Poole (Mr. Syms) explained earlier, that circumstances could arise in which an inspector's recommendations are contrary to the existing regional and national planning guidance. Under the proposals, local authorities do not appear to have any recourse to challenge an inspector's recommendation, other than by instigating a judicial review. It is certainly the view of Bedfordshire county council and the Local Government Association that that is not a course that we should force local authorities to go down, as it would be likely to be a lengthy, expensive and difficult process.

Of course, we understand the proper function that inspectors have within the planning process, but that must be balanced vis-à-vis the powers and responsibilities of local planning authorities. In my constituency, considerable disquiet was expressed at a recent Government inspector's decision to allow travellers to remain permanently on local green belt land. That decision involved a completely unauthorised development, about which the local authority and the local people felt very strongly. Indeed, my constituents expressed considerable resentment at, as they saw it, a Government inspector coming in from the other side of the country. They did not believe that the inspector was in tune with the wishes and views of the local people or had a proper understanding of the issues. That resulted in considerable resentment building up.

My fear is that we shall see more resentment building up. People will feel that the whole planning process is becoming more remote and more unchallengeable. If a local authority were able to challenge an inspector's decision, there would at least be some contact between the electorate and someone whom they could get hold of locally and who was accountable to them by virtue of wanting to be re-elected every few years. That link will be lost under the new measures, and that will have detrimental consequences for local democracy and for any sense of local involvement in planning issues.

7.15 pm
Peter Bottomley

It is now time for the Minister's test. Will he please intervene and let me know which clause of the Bill is affected by the Lords amendments that we are now discussing?

Keith Hill

We are dealing with clause 22 of the Bill.

Peter Bottomley

Regarding clause 22, does the Minister know when the Secretary of State last intervened to overrule a planner's view on a development plan? I could give him a whole series of cases in which the Secretary of State has overruled his inspector, when the inspector has overruled a local authority. I do not want to sound as though I am against inspectors, but the Secretary of State's considered view in such cases was that the local authority was right and that the inspector should be overruled. If that happens, it is either because the Secretary of State has received representations, perhaps from the local authority or the community—which we hear so much about—or from some other source.

I am not sure how big a difference there is between the Local Government Association and the Minister's advisers. This is not the time to go back into the history of where the ghastly expression "spatial planning" came from—

Keith Hill


Peter Bottomley

It might have come from Europe, but I am not sure why we needed to adopt it. We could always have translated it, could we not? I am all in favour of being a European as well as being British, but if I were to go out into the high street of Worthing and ask people what they thought of the Government's policy on spatial planning, they would say, "Say that again. What's it all about?" The Government have failed to explain why they are putting forward their national strategy in this way, and why they have not managed to convince the very sensible people in the Local Government Association, which includes the local councils in the Worthing, West constituency.

Sir Sydney Chapman

I think that my hon. Friend will find that the term "spatial development" was first introduced in the Greater London Authority Act 1999. I made exactly the same point at that time as my hon. Friend is making now. It is a new-fangled concept with which I find it difficult to come to terms. I notice that since it was introduced in that Act, there has been less and less space in London as buildings get taller and taller.

Peter Bottomley

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention.

I believe that, in a number of respects, the Government's intentions are good. In the seven years that I have represented my present constituency, however, I have also learned that the Deputy Prime Minister, in trying to deal with the traffic problems along the A27 corridor through West Sussex, has set up a system that was designed not to produce a result. When I now hear from the planning Minister and the Government that they want a system that will not allow for delay but will identify delay and overcome it, I wonder what that will mean for the people who will lose their lives, be injured or have their environment wrecked by an uncontrolled traffic flow on unsuitable roads through urban areas.

The Minister does not need to give me an answer this evening because that is a local point, but I hope that he will ensure that, if the Government are so concerned about this spatial planning, it should include transport planning as well. That would be helpful, because many development issues are affected in that way. I could give the Minister an example of a case in which the Secretary of State overruled an inspector in my neighbouring constituency of East Worthing and Shoreham two or three years ago.

West Sussex county council has been well led and well run at officer and member level, and I want it to be satisfied with planning controls that will help it to achieve what it is required to achieve, and which will stop it being dissatisfied because the Government are not listening to the reasonable voices in the House of Lords, and which are being supported by the Local Government Association. That is why I wrote to the Minister a couple of weeks ago asking him to explain why the Lords amendments were unacceptable, and either to accept them or to present alternatives that would bring about consensus on what the Local Government Association, the Lords and the West Sussex councils wanted—together with a reasonable opportunity for the Government to achieve the aim of their wholesale changes.

At present, I think that the House would judge it fair to say, with a half-smile, that the Minister has not even tried to justify the Government's intentions, other than by saying that the Government do not want anything to happen after the inspector has made a recommendation because they do not want that. We have heard no argument that stands up to reason. As the hon. Member for Ludlow (Matthew Green) kindly pointed out, we have heard no response to my request for real examples of things going wrong. I hope that if the Government's majority—which, I note, has not been reflected in this evening's Back-Bench speeches—succeeds in overturning the amendment, their lordships will go on requiring Ministers in the other place to produce arguments that make some kind of sense. At present, this House is being asked to approve something that does not make sense.

Keith Hill

I hope to deal with most of what has been said, although I shall not detain he House for long.

The hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Syms) spoke of the complexity of the architecture. I think that we have already dealt with that. Although—if I may use a colloquialism—I know where the hon. Gentleman is coming from, those of us who have thrashed out these issues in Committee are pretty clear about the structures. Any new system takes some understanding, but I am confident that this system is understood. The fact that a number of local authorities are already drawing up their local development frameworks suggests that it is clearly understood out there.

I strongly rebut what I believe to have been the assertion of the hon. Member for Ludlow (Matthew Green) that this was a top-down system. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are introducing much more powerful elements of community involvement to a planning system that is already characterised—perhaps more than most areas of local and national government activity—by a greater degree of public participation than that system has yet experienced. That is a direct contradiction of the notion of top-down decision-making.

Front-loading is essential to the concept of binding inspectors' reports. As I shall demonstrate, all key material issues will emerge earlier in the process, and there are innumerable safeguards to prevent the introduction of unpredictable measures. All interested parties will have an opportunity to participate at the outset.

Matthew Green

The Minister said that I had described this as a top-down system. If he reads Hansard,he will find that I said nothing of the sort. In the examples I gave, inspectors were not just failing to go along with what the local authority wanted, but their actions were not in line with national and regional planning guidance, and thus not in line with the top. My point was that a check would be needed after an inspector's report. I agree with the Minister about front-loading, which I think will remove the need for numerous inspectors' reports and public inquiries. I agree with all the positives. However, I do not see the necessity to take away a council's ability to overturn a report.

Keith Hill

If the hon. Gentleman did not use the expression "top-down", I withdraw my allegation and apologise. However, he did say that the inspector would be acting in Ministers' names, which is absolutely not the case. The inspector will be entirely independent, which is why clause 19 provides for an independent examination.

The hon. Member for Worthing, West (Peter Bottomley) used a traffic analogy. I repeat that the inspector will be strictly limited in terms of the new matters that he may present. It is invidious to cite cases and Ministers must be awfully careful with planning issues, but it is well known that a weakness of the planning system—for it is bound to have some acknowledged weaknesses—is that it can lead to excessive delays. Frequent unreasonable delays at the modification stage are a byword, and the Bill seeks to deal with them.

At this point I should scotch another canard. I seem to begin all my replies by scotching canards. The hon. Member for Poole began his description of what he called the architecture of the Bill by saying that we began with a national spatial strategy. There is no such thing, although we have the planning policy statements and the White Papers which inform the regional spatial strategies, which in turn inform the local development documents.

Conservative Members have expressed anxiety about the powers which, they assert, will accrue to inspectors. They fear that an inspector might make changes to a development plan document that would not be considered at the examination. I repeat that the inspector will be able to recommend a substantive change in the document only if people have had an opportunity to make representations on it, or it has been considered at an examination and the representations, or debates, support the change.

7.30 pm

Generally, inspectors will not be able to introduce new proposals. Any new proposals must be tested against the criteria for soundness at the public examination stage. Inspectors will be able to recommend a substantive change in the plan and the policies only if it has been through due process. They can, however, reconvene the examination panel or return the matter to the local planning authority for consideration. As a result, it will be subject to the preparation of a new plan or the alteration of the shortly-to-be-adopted development plan document.

The inspector's job will be to consider both the test of soundness and the representation. If he or she believes that the plan contains a substantial weakness that has not been subject to representations but on which he or she might need to make a recommendation, he or she must raise that at the examination and invite discussions.

Safeguards will be available to local authorities in extremis. The hon. Member for Worthing, West mentioned factual errors. A fact check will be available to authorities. The local planning authority will see a draft of the report and will be able to point out factual errors, which will be set out in the final version of planning policy statement 12.

Secondly, anyone can ask the Secretary of State to exercise his intervention powers to direct changes—that is in clause 21—or to call in the plan, under clause 23, where a development plan document is up for approval and under challenge. Challenge in the courts is possible under clause 109 on the grounds that the document is not within the appropriate power or that a procedural requirement has not been complied with. As we have said, in certain other circumstances judicial review might be appropriate.

Finally, Members from both Opposition parties have alluded to the Birmingham case. Again, it will be understood that it is not appropriate for me to comment on specifics, but I put it to those hon. Gentlemen that they are assuming that the new arrangements will be exactly like the existing ones, except that the inspector's report will be the final stage. As I have sought to explain in extreme detail, the features of the new system mean that that will not be the case. It seems unlikely that examples such as Birmingham will recur.

In the light of all those considerations, I invite the House to resist the Lords amendment.

Question put, That this House disagrees with the Lords in the said amendment:—

The House divided:Ayes 274, Noes 162.

Division No. 129] [7:32 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Coleman, Iain
Alexander, Douglas Connarty, Michael
Allen, Graham Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale & Darwen) Cook, rh Robin (Livingston)
Cooper, Yvette
Armstrong, rh Ms Hilary Corston, Jean
Atherton, Ms Candy Cousins, Jim
Bailey, Adrian Crausby, David
Baird, Vera Cruddas, Jon
Battle, John Cryer, Ann (Keighley)
Bayley, Hugh Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Beard, Nigel Cummings, John
Beckett, rh Margaret Cunningham, rh Dr. Jack (Copeland)
Begg, Miss Anne
Benn, rh Hilary Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S)
Bennett, Andrew Dalyell, Tam
Berry, Roger Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Best, Harold David, Wayne
Blackman, Liz Davidson, Ian
Blears, Ms Hazel Davies, rh Denzil (Llanelli)
Blizzard, Bob Davis, rh Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Bradley, rh Keith (Withington) Dean, Mrs Janet
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Denham, rh John
Bradshaw, Ben Dhanda, Parmjit
Brown, rh Nicholas (Newcastle E Wallsend) Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim (Heywood)
Browne, Desmond Dobson, rh Frank
Bryant, Chris Donohoe, Brian H.
Buck, Ms Karen Drew, David (Stroud)
Burden, Richard Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Burgon, Colin Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Burnham, Andy Edwards, Huw
Byers, rh Stephen Efford, Clive
Cairns, David Ellman, Mrs Louise
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth) Etherington, Bill
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Farrelly, Paul
Caplin, Ivor Fisher, Mark
Casale, Roger Fitzpatrick, Jim
Caton, Martin Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Cawsey, Ian (Brigg) Flint, Caroline
Challen, Colin Follett, Barbara
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Foster, rh Derek
Clapham, Michael Foster, Michael (Worcester)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham) Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings & Rye)
Clarke, rh Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge & Chryston) Foulkes, rh George
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Gapes, Mike (Ilford S)
Clelland, David George, rh Bruce (Walsall S)
Coffey, Ms Ann Gerrard, Neil
Cohen, Harry Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda MacDougall, John
Godsiff, Roger McGuire, Mrs Anne
Goggins, Paul McIsaac, Shona
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) McKechin, Ann
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) McNulty, Tony
Hain, rh Peter Mactaggart, Fiona
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale) McWalter, Tony
Hall, Patrick (Bedford) Mahmood, Khalid
Hanson, David Mahon, Mrs Alice
Havard, Dai (Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney) Mallaber, Judy
Mandelson, rh Peter
Healey, John Mann, John (Bassetlaw)
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N) Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich) Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Hendrick, Mark Marshall, David (Glasgow Shettleston)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Hesford, Stephen Martlew, Eric
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia Meale, Alan (Mansfield)
Hill, Keith (Streatham) Merron, Gillian
Hinchliffe, David Michael, rh Alun
Hodge, Margaret Milburn, rh Alan
Hood, Jimmy (Clydesdale) Miliband, David
Hoon, rh Geoffrey Mole, Chris
Hope, Phil (Corby) Morris, rh Estelle
Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E) Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Howells, Dr. Kim Mullin, Chris
Hoyle, Lindsay Munn, Ms Meg
Hughes, Beverley (Stretford & Urmston) Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Murphy, rh Paul (Torfaen)
Humble, Mrs Joan Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Hutton, rh John O'Hara, Edward
Iddon, Dr. Brian Olner, Bill
Illsley, Eric O'Neill, Martin
Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead & Highgate) Osborne, Sandra (Ayr)
Owen, Albert
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough) Palmer, Dr. Nick
Jamieson, David Perham, Linda
Jenkins, Brian Picking, Anne
Jones, Helen (Warrington N) Pickthall, Colin
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Plaskitt, James
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S) Pond, Chris (Gravesham)
Jowell, rh Tessa Pope, Greg (Hyndburn)
Joyce, Eric (Falkirk W) Pound, Stephen
Kaufman, rh Gerald Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham) Prescott, rh John
Kemp, Fraser Primarolo, rh Dawn
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree) Prosser, Gwyn
Khabra, Piara S. Purnell, James
Kidney, David Quinn, Lawrie
Kilfoyle, Peter Rapson, Syd (Portsmouth N)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green & Bow) Raynsford, rh Nick
Reid, rh Dr. John (Hamilton N & Bellshill)
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Lammy, David
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie Roche, Mrs Barbara
Lazarowicz, Mark Rooney, Terry
Lepper, David Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Leslie, Christopher Roy, Frank (Motherwell)
Levitt, Tom (High Peak) Ruddock, Joan
Linton, Martin Ryan, Joan (Enfield N)
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C) Salter, Martin
Love, Andrew Sarwar, Mohammad
Lucas, Ian (Wrexham) Savidge, Malcolm
Luke, Iain (Dundee E) Sawford, Phil
Lyons, John (Strathkelvin) Sedgemore, Brian
McAvoy, Thomas Shaw, Jonathan
McCafferty, Chris Sheerman, Barry
McCartney, rh Ian Sheridan, Jim
McDonagh, Siobhain Short, rh Clare
MacDonald, Calum Simon, Skôn (B'ham Erdington)
McDonnell, John Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis Vaz, Keith (Leicester E)
Smith, Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale) Vis Dr. Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent) Ward, Claire
Soley, Clive Wareing, Robert N.
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Steinberg, Gerry William Betty (Conwy)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles) Wills, Michael
Stinchcombe, Paul Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Straw, rh Jack Woodward, Shaun
Stringer, Graham Woolas, Phil
Stuart, Ms Gisela Worthiniton, Tony
Taylor, David (NW Leics) Wright, Anthony D. (Gt Yarmouth)
Touhig, Don (Islwyn)
Turner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton Kemptown) Wright, David (Telford)
Wyatt, Derek
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton) Tellers for the Ayes:
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield) Charlotte Atkins and
Tynan, Bill (Hamilton S) Mr. Nick Ainger
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Gale, Roger (N Thanet)
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E) Garnier, Edward
Bacon, Richard George,Andrew (St. Ives)
Baldry, Tony Gibb, Nick (Bognor Regis)
Barker, Gregory Gidley Sandra
Baron, John (Billericay) Goodman, Paul
Barrett, John Gray, James (N Wilts)
Blunt, Crispin Grayling, Chris
Boswell, Tim Green, Damian (Ashford)
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W) Green, Matthew (Ludlow)
Bottomley, rh Virginia (SW Surrey) Greenway, John
Hague rh William
Brady, Graham Hammond, Philip
Brake, Tom (Carshalton) Hancock Mike
Brazier, Julian Harvey Nick
Brooke, Mrs Annette L. Hawkins, Nick
Browning, Mrs Angela Hayes, John (S Holland)
Bruce, Malcolm Heald, Oliver
Burnett, John Heath, David
Burns, Simon Heathcoat-Amory, rh David
Burnside, David Hoban, Mark (Fareham)
Burstow, Paul Hogg, rh Douglas
Burt, Alistair Holmes, Paul
Cameron, David Horam, John (Orpington)
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies (NE Fife) Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Jack. rh Michael
Carmichael, Alistair Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet) Jenkin, Bernard
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Chidgey, David Keetch, Paul
Chope. Christopher Key, Robert (Salisbury)
Clappison, James Kirkwood Sir Archy
Clarke, rh Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Knight, rh Greg (E Yorkshire)
Collins, Tim Laing Mrs Eleanor
Conway, Derek Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Cormack, Sir Patrick Lamb, Norman
Curry, rh David Lansley. Andrew
Davey, Edward (Kingston) Laws, David (Yeovil)
Davies, Quentin (Grantham & Stamford) Leigh, Edward
Letwin, rh Oliver
Davis, rh David (Haltemprice & Howden) Lewis, Dr. Julian (New Forest E)
Lidington, David
Djanogly, Jonathan Lilley, rh Peter
Doughty, Sue Llwyd,Elfyn
Duncan, Alan (Rutland) Loughton, Tim
Evans, Nigel Luff, Peter (M-Worcs)
Fabricant, Michael McIntosh, Miss Anne
Fallon, Michael Maclean, rh David
Field, Mark (Cities of London & Westminster) McLoughlin, Patrick
Malins, Humfrey
Flight, Howard Maples, John
Flook, Adrian Mawhinney, rh Sir Brian
Foster, Don (Bath) May, Mis Theresa
Mercer, Patrick Spring, Richard
Moss, Malcolm Stanley, rh Sir John
Murrison, Dr. Andrew Steen, Anthony
Norman, Archie Streeter, Gary
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury) Stunell, Andrew
Öpik, Lembit Swayne, Desmond
Osborne, George (Tatton) Syms, Robert
Ottaway, Richard Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Page, Richard Taylor, John (Solihull)
Paice, James Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Paterson, Owen Taylor, Dr. Richard (Wyre F)
Price, Adam (E Carmarthen & Dinefwr) Teather, Sarah
Tredinnick, David
Prisk, Mark (Hertford) Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)
Randall, John Tyler, Paul (N Cornwall)
Redwood, rh John Tyrie, Andrew
Rendel, David Viggers, Peter
Robathan, Andrew Walter, Robert
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry) Waterson, Nigel
Rosindell, Andrew Watkinson, Angela
Ruffley David Whittingdale, John
Russell, Bob (Colchester) Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Sanders, Adrian Wiggin, Bill
Sayeed, Jonathan Williams, Hywel (Caernarfon)
Selous, Andrew Williams, Roger (Brecon)
Shephard, rh Mrs Gillian Willis, Phil
Shepherd, Richard Wilshire, David
Simmonds, Mark Winterton, Ann (Congleton)
Simpson, Keith (M-Norfolk) Winterton, Sir Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns & Kincardine) Young, rh Sir George
Soames, Nicholas Tellers for the Noes:
Spicer, Sir Michael Mr. Peter Atkinson and
Spink, Bob (Castle Point) Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown

Question accordingly agreed to.

Lords amendment disagreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 22 and 23 disagreed to.

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