HC Deb 21 April 2004 vol 420 cc284-5
6. Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con)

How many public planning inquiries he has ordered in the last 12 months. [166257]

The Minister for Housing and Planning (Keith Hill)

Altogether, arrangements were made for 2,163 public inquiries, mostly at the request of the parties, into appeals and other matters submitted under the Town and Country Planning Acts.

Tony Baldry

Of the Bicester accommodation centre, the then Minister for Citizenship and Immigration said at the Dispatch Box that the Government would abide by the outcome of any public inquiry, and went on to say that that would be both fair and democratic. The public inquiry took place; the inspector ruled on planning grounds that the development should not go ahead. The Deputy Prime Minister metaphorically put up two fingers to that and said that, because it was Government policy, the development would go ahead regardless. What on earth is the point of holding a public inquiry if the Government intend to take absolutely no notice of its outcome? What is either fair or democratic about that—or is it just as worthless as all the rest of the Government's big conversation?

Keith Hill

I must inform the hon. Gentleman that there was nothing extraordinary about the procedure adopted in the Bicester case. On average, the First Secretary of State disagrees with inspectors' recommendations in about 10 per cent. of cases. Last year, the figure was 31 out of 330 applications and appeals. In the Bicester case, the reasons for the First Secretary of State's decision are set out in his decision letter of 18 August 2003. There is nothing further to add to the reasons given in that decision. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I ask the House to come to order.