HL Deb 30 April 1985 vol 463 cc206-28

Metropolitan Counties

5.—(1) For the following classes of applications for planning permission the local planning authorities shall consult with all local planning authorities affected by the application—

  1. (a) when the development is not in accordance with the provisions of a development plan and consists of am, of the following—
    1. (i) the erection of dwellings on land exceeding 10 hectares;
    2. (ii) the erection of buildings to be used as industrial buildings within the meaning of the Order of 1972 on land exceeding 10 hectares;
    3. (iii) the erection, alteration or extension of a building, or the material change of use of a building, if the development would provide more than 2,785 square metres of floor space for use as an office;
    4. (iv) the erection, extension or alteration of a building so as to provide more than 2,785 square metres of floor space to be used as a shop within the meaning of the Order of 1972;
    5. (v) any development of land which is allocated for Green Belt in the development plan;
  2. (b) the erection or material alteration of any building which would, on completion of the development, have the capacity to accommodate more than 2,500 persons and which is to be used as an exhibition or conference centre, a lecture hall, concert hall or arena, or for any other similar purpose of public assembly;
  3. (c) the use of land as a ground for sports or games or as a racing track having, in any case, the capacity to accommodate more than 2,500 spectators;
  4. (d) the erection of any building or the carrying out of other works for the purpose of the establishment of a railway terminus, a station for public service vehicles, an aerodrome (as defined in section 64(1) of the Civil Aviation Act 1971) or an air passenger terminal (whether within or outside an aerodrome);
  5. (e) development which it appears to the local planning authority is likely to create or attract traffic which will result in a material increase in the volume of traffic outside the area of the authority or which will otherwise have a material effect on existing traffic management arrangements outside that area;
  6. (f) development consisting of the winning and working of minerals other than coal on land exceeding two hectares;
  7. (g) development consisting of the use for waste disposal of land exceeding two hectares;
  8. (h) development consisting of or involving the erection, alteration or extension of a building or the use of land for the purpose of the manufacture, processing, keeping or use of a hazardous substance;
  9. (j) development consisting of or involving the erection, extension or alteration of a building for use as an electricity generating station;
  10. (k) development of any class contained in this Schedule which the local planning authority itself proposes to carry out:
  11. (l) development of any other description which is agreed between all the local planning authorities in a metropolitan county;

(2) In this Part of this Schedule— hazardous substance" has the same meaning as in the Town and Country Planning General Development Order 1977; the Order of 1972" means the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1972;").

They would not only lay down statutory procedures for consultations over and above those which already exist, but they would also require local planning authorities to hold public inquiries into various kinds of application if any of the authorities consulted objected to the development proposed. This would clearly slow down decisions on planning applications to the detriment of all Londoners.

In essence the two amendments in this group would require consultation on specified classes of application. If any of the local authorities consulted object to the proposal, there would have to be a local public inquiry. In some cases the consultation required would be with all other boroughs, even if they were nowhere near the site involved. Of course I appreciate the importance of ensuring that there is adequate consultation over potentially controversial developments. But I have three major objections to the proposed amendments.

First, there is already adequate provision in the planning system for consultation. The General Development Order (known as the GDO)—the statutory instrument which, among other things, lays down much of the procedure to be followed by local authorities in handling planning applications—lays down a long list of bodies who have to be consulted before particular classes of applications can be permitted. There must be consultation with the Secretary of State over development which will increase the volume of traffic entering or leaving trunk roads; or with the National Coal Board over erection of buildings in areas where coal is being mined (which I accept is not very likely in the centre of London); or with the water authority in a long list of cases which might affect water quality. I name only a few at random.

But first of all in this list is a requirement for the local planning authority to consult with any other authorities whose land is likely to be affected by the development in question. And there are provisions in the order which would enable us to issue directions requiring consultation with other bodies or persons on other classes of application, if that became necessary.

As far as consulting the general public is concerned, there are a number of sorts of development—again laid down in the GDO—which have to be publicly advertised before they can be granted. Any representations received on these must be taken into account by the local planning authority who decide the application. And it is open to anyone to inspect the public register of applications and to make representations on these applications. Moreover, where any application would involve a departure from the development plan, the local authority are required to advertise it in a local newspaper (if they do not propose to refuse it) and to take into account any objections they receive as a result. So there are more than adequate opportunities for all relevant interests to put their views. Given all these arrangements, I see no need for further statutory provision.

9.30 p.m.

Secondly, even if the present arrangements were not adequate, I would see grave disadvantages in enshrining the list of consultees or the subjects on which consultation should take place in primary legislation. It would inevitably become unwieldy and difficult to alter in the light of changing circumstances. Our present approach is generally to deal with such matters in subordinate legislation; in this case, the GDO. I am convinced that this is the right approach, with greater flexibility; indeed, with greater opportunity for discussion by Parliament.

Thirdly, the amendments would complicate the planning system and slow down development. Our general policy is to simplify planning controls where we can, not to increase them—certainly not to increase them by requiring consultation with all other London boroughs. We do not need all these extra consultations and inquiries. The boroughs and districts already have wide experience in development control. They will be fully capable of identifying the issues involved in particular applications and balancing the arguments for and against them; including of course the arguments put forward in the course of the wide consultations which the present system already requires. Our system aims to strike a balance between different pressures: pressure for necessary development and change and pressure for the conservation of the natural and built environment. In terms of policy, I believe we have the balance about right. In terms of procedure, we must constantly strive to speed things up. Lengthy rounds of additional statutory consultation and provision for a new system of public inquiries into applications can only delay development—development which will often be in the interests of the whole community—with the net result that in many cases developers will be discouraged from making proposals. We cannot afford this as a country. We need the planning system to operate effectively and quickly, in everyone's interests. These amendments would all hinder that vital objective.

The noble Lord cast aspersions on the activities of the current Secretary of State for the Environment and described his calling-in procedures as arbitrary; and he used some other slightly defamatory term. All I can say is that the Secretary of State acts under the law and is required to account for his decisions to Parliament. I urge the Committee to reject these amendments.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

The missing term was "ad hoc".

Lord Skelmersdale

I thank the noble Lord.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

Granted. The noble Lord rests his case on "better do it quick than right". "Simplified" is a word that the Minister used. "Speed" is another word he used. The Minister drew our attention to the existing way in which those we are seeking to protect by requiring adequate consultation under the GDO do have adequate protection and opportunity for redress. I am genuinely seeking advice from the Minister. The amendment states that, in the event that any authority consulted under this subsection objects to the grant of planning permission for such development, then the local planning authority shall hold a local public enquiry". That is the nub of it. We say that if all else fails and there is an objection then a public inquiry should be held. Can the Minister tell us if a neighbouring authority objects to what is proposed, after having been consulted, what length of run does the local authority have in seeking redress? We are saying that if they are not satisfied the local planning authority shall hold a local public inquiry into the matter. I genuinely want to know what the future position is if an authority which is seeking to change the planning matters, consults, receives objections and as I see it having adequately consulted, then decides to go ahead. What can be done to stop that?

I presume that the Secretary of State has the power to intervene. But he is a very busy man, and his staff are busy people, too. We are saying that planning matters of this scale, particularly where the issue cuts across or affects boundaries and where buildings of some height and scale are concerned, should be settled much more fairly.

The Minister talks of the complexity of the procedure that we suggest. But we are genuinely seeking to compare what is being lost with the procedures that the Government seek to have instead, and we can see blemishes and flaws. I can well understand the Minister trying to take, if not a short cut, the easier way out. Of course public inquiries will cause delay. They require inspectors and staff and a certain veneer of bureaucracy. They can be irritating. But if at the end of the day the outcome is a greater measure of satisfaction with the planning system, I genuinely believe the Minister should look at the proposal.

I shall look carefully at Hansard to see what the Minister said and consider my future action, but I wonder, first, whether he can genuinely tell us what redress an aggrieved local authority has other than the planning inquiry we are asking for. I appreciate that he may not be able to do that now and we could come back to it at the next stage if he is not.

Lord Skelmersdale

I think that I ought to say three things in answer to the noble Lord's speech. The local planning authority in control receives the application, for example, to develop, and at the end of the day, whatever may happen in the meantime, grants the application. Secondly, the Secretary of State is well aware of what is going on. He has various forms of information. As was pointed out earlier this afternoon, he has the regional offices in various parts of the country. He has the opportunity to read the press reports, and if he does not read them personally someone in his department will very soon point them out to him. There is also the power of Parliament. The noble Lord since he arrived in this House has constantly questioned the Government on the subject of planning.

Baroness Birk

He is absolutely right to do so.

Lord Skelmersdale

I agree with the noble Baroness that he is absolutely right. We have talked about the Sussex Downs and we have had debates about Cornwall and, I seem to remember, about other things, and I have no doubt that we shall again. That is another way that Parliament can bring matters of concern to the attention of the Secretary of State.

The third point which perhaps I ought to make to the noble Lord is that a local authority, if it is objecting, will be in the same position as any other objector to the LPA in control, as I call it. There is no automatic right to a public inquiry in cases where objections are made. However, as he well knows, there is the local public inquiry procedure.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

"However, there is the local public inquiry procedure". I should be grateful to the Minister if he could elucidate, and I shall carry on speaking while the nod comes from the Box. The local public inquiry procedure is apparently the answer. I want to know what the local public inquiry procedure is, what its statutory remit is and what its ultimate powers are. I am talking about one local authority being aggrieved by a neighbour's intention to grant a planning application, and it takes objection, registers it and sustains it in responsible terms. We are saying that in those circumstances it ought to be statutorily obligatory on the grant-giving authority to hold a public inquiry. The Minister is saying there is the local public inquiry procedure for one neighbouring authority in respect of another. I should like the Minister to tell me what that means.

Lord Skelmersdale

As I understand the matter, the local inquiry procedure is involved where, for example, the decision, or the proposed decision, of the local planning authority goes against its plans, either its structure plan, or in the case of this Bill its unitary development plan.

As the noble Lord will equally know, an application may be called in by the Secretary of State and he may hold a public local inquiry. If it raises issues of wider than local significance—I am afraid that this note simply does not make sense. Therefore I think it would be wise of me to perhaps pray in aid my noble friend Lord Sandford who knows this subject very much better than I do.

Baroness Birk

It warms my heart to hear the noble Lord say those words because on one occasion when I was sitting on his side of the Chamber a note arrived and I said, "This does not make sense". So then a further note arrived and I could not read the writing and I said, "This makes less sense". Thus I am glad to hear that we all get into the same box at times.

Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran

I congratulate the Minister on his frankness on this matter. In order to save him considerable trouble I wonder whether he will take this matter back in order for it to be reconsidered. The noble Lord, Lord Graham, has raised a very serious matter in relation to the community. I did not intervene. I suggest that this matter be taken back by the Minister to reconsider it on another occasion.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

I am perfectly willing to withdraw the amendment. The Minister quite clearly appreciates that we shall read the record of the proceedings. There is a later stage in the course of this Bill when, perhaps after discussions, I may be in a position to bring back for the consideration of the Committee what I shall seek to attain in another way. Thus, without embarrassing the Minister or making any point because I understand that it needs some thought, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 17 not moved.]

Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran moved Amendment No. 17A: Page 2, line 31, at end insert— ("( ) It shall be the duty of every mineral planning authority in Greater London and each metropolitan county acting jointly with contiguous mineral planning authorities periodically to review mineral workings in the respective areas, in accordance with the provisions of section 264A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 except that the relevant period in relation to the need for a review under that Act shall be three years and not five years.").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 17A, and with the leave of the Committee in order to save time perhaps I may also speak to Amendments Nos. 17B, 17C and 17D.

Amendment No. 17B: Page 2, line 31, at end insert— ("( ) On receipt of any application for planning permission, involving the extraction of minerals from land within Greater London or a metropolitan county the relevant mineral planning authority, before determining such application, shall—

  1. (a) carry out consultations concerning the application with bodies appearing to the relevant mineral planning authority to represent the aggregates in industry, with other mineral planning authorities in Greater London or the metropolitan county and with any contiguous mineral planning authorities not in Greater London or the metropolitan county, as the case may be;
  2. (b) take due account of the overall conditions of supply and demand for minerals of the kind to which the application relates in Greater London or the metropolitan county.").

Amendment No. 17C: Page 2, line 31, at end insert— ("( ) It shall be the duty of mineral planning authorities in Greater London and the metropolitan counties—

  1. (a) when granting planning permission under the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 for development involving the extraction of minerals from land to impose conditions relating to the use and maintenance of such land after minerals have been extracted so as to ensure that such land may be satisfactorily reinstated; and
  2. (b) to issue an enforcement notice as defined in section 87 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 where it appears to the relevant mineral planning authority that there has been a breach of any condition of the kind described in paragraph (a) of this subsection whether such condition was imposed on a planning permission granted before or after the passing of this Act.").

Amendment No. 17D: Page 2, line 31, at end insert— ("( ) Without prejudice to any other powers of mineral planning authorities in Greater London or a metropolitan county under the Town and Country Planning Act 1971, such authorities in Greater London and the metropolitan county shall have the duty within ten years of the coming into operation of this section, to take steps to secure the restoration to a standard to be specified by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and the return to beneficial use of all land in Greater London or a metropolitan county formerly worked for the extraction of minerals.").

All these amendments relate to fundamental matters relating to the environment in Greater London and the metropolitan county areas. The importance of mineral planning is emphasised to some extent by the way in which those words are introduced into the Local Government Bill. While Clause 3(2) refers to the "local planning authority", the next subsection refers to definitions of a mineral planning authority, indicating that mineral planning in itself is of great importance.

As the Committee will be aware, there are instances, particularly in the Greater London area, of acres of land, or hectares of land to use a modern term, which have been despoiled.

Amendment No. 17A seeks to ensure that the Bill makes it incumbent upon every planning authority in the Greater London area and the areas of the metropolitan county councils to carry out a review of mineral workings within three years of the Bill being enacted. There is currently no duty on mineral planning authorities because while in the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 and the Town and Country Planning (Minerals) Act 1981, powers exist for this to be done within five years of an order being made, no order has yet been made.

There is a substantial backlog of despoiled land in London. It is imperative that a high standard of service should be maintained and that these reviews should be carried out. The amendment seeks to do just that by requiring the boroughs to work to the same timetable in which the GLC proposes to carry out the review.

9.45 p.m.

Amendment No. 17B is directed to an omission from the Bill. No machinery is provided to prevent boroughs taking decisions on applications to extract minerals based on purely local considerations. This amendment points to the need to assemble a strategic information base. It does this by making inter-borough consultation and consultations with the aggregates industry a statutory requirement. It also requires that the overall supply and demand for minerals be kept under review. I do not want to press this matter for too long. But without the amendment, there could be a number of complicated administrative difficulties. The British Aggregate Construction Materials Industries have argued—I quote their response to the White Paper, Streamlining the Cities, of January 1984: We fear that on the dissolution of the GLC … devolution of strategic functions will lead to a lack of co-ordination, inefficient deployment of available skills and a need for more frequent recourse to the system of planning appeals".

Amendment No. 17C seeks to ensure that present standards of reclaiming land after the extraction of minerals and its return to viable use, as the GLC and metropolitan counties presently achieve, are maintained after abolition. As the legislation stands at present, the imposition of planning conditions on mineral workings is discretionary. Subsection (a) removes this discretion and imposes a duty on mineral planning authorities to impose after-care conditions and also, for the first time, conditions suitable for after use of the reclaimed land.

The object of Amendment No. 17D is this. There are some 1,300 hectares of land in Greater London that are damaged or derelict due to the activities of mineral extraction. Little of this land is covered by any statutory requirement to restore it and no general duties exist in mineral planning authorities to secure restoration of land in their area. The Bill does not introduce any requirement to this end. The GLC, as mineral planning authority for all mineral extraction proposals of over two hectares, has taken upon itself to restore land primarily to agricultural use of the highest standards. This work is carried out in close association with the Ministry of Agriculture and the minerals industry.

I spoke to the noble Lord the Minister as to the procedure for dealing with these highly technical amendments. He agreed with me that it would save time if I were to make a short introduction to each of the four amendments, as I have done. I could expand at great length because these are very important matters relating to the environment. In the circumstances, however, I think that I shall await the Minister's reply to my submissions. I beg to move.

Lord Skelmersdale

I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, for the way that he has moved this quite large block of amendments. I was most interested to learn from the noble Lord's speech that there are some 13,000 hectares—

Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran

Thirteen hundred.

Lord Skelmersdale

I am sorry. I should have said that there are 1,300 hectares—I took it down wrongly—in Greater London that have been damaged by former mineral workings. That might well be so. But these amendments seek to make different provision for mineral planning in Greater London and the metropolitan counties from that applying elsewhere in England and Wales. I really cannot see any good reason for this. It has been suggested, not by the noble Lord but in another place and elsewhere, that such different treatment is appropriate because mineral development is particularly significant in these areas. But from April 1983 to March 1984 only 41 mineral planning applications were decided in the whole of the GLC area and the metropolitan counties put together. That is not a very great many. Moreover, in another place it was authoritatively stated that the Greater London Council employ only four officers on their mineral planning responsibilities and my information is that only about 25 staff are engaged on the function in all of the metropolitan areas. No one, in these circumstances, can say that mineral extraction is a major activity in these conurbations.

Following a point made by my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross some hours ago, I do not therefore see any justification for amending this Bill to change the provisions which apply elsewhere in England and Wales. There is no justification therefore for treating them any differently from other minerals planning authorities in England and Wales, many of whom have far greater minerals responsibilities.

Therefore, when I turn to the specific provisions proposed by the noble Lord's amendments, I must admit to some slight confusion. The purpose of Amendment No. 17A appears to be to introduce in the metropolitan areas a more lenient regime than applies elsewhere. It would require the London boroughs and the metropolitan districts to conduct periodic reviews of only these mineral sites worked or authorised during the previous three years instead of five years, as elsewhere.

If the noble Lord regards mineral extraction as such a significant factor in these areas, I rather fail to see the purpose of introducing a more relaxed review regime. Furthermore, the amendment seeks to alter arrangements under the Minerals Act 1981 which have not yet been tried. Section 264A was added to the 1971 Act by the Town and Country Planning (Minerals) Act 1981. It is not yet in operation and will not be until a commencement order which was debated this evening in your Lordships' House has been properly put. We do not "put" commencement orders onto the statute book, but there is some procedure for making them operable.

I would therefore argue that we should wait and see how these arrangements will operate before considering whether it is necessary to make changes in respect of their application, let alone changes applying only to particular geographical areas which. I say again, would, under these amendments, differ.

The next amendment in this group, Amendment 17B, appears to seek to impose new conditions on authorities who are determining applications for the extraction of minerals in the metropolitan areas which do not apply to authorities elsewhere. It would require those authorities to consult bodies appearing to represent the aggregates industry. Why only them? Aggregates are not the only minerals worked in the metropolitan areas and other mineral interests may be more significant. In any event, the aggregates industry is already represented on the regional aggregates working parties whose policy advice is taken into account in considering individual mineral applications. The amendment would also require an authority to consult all other mineral planning authorities in the metropolitan areas as well as neighbouring authorities outside the relevant area. However, Article 15(1) of the Town and Country Planning General Development Order 1977 already requires any planning authority to consult any other planning authority whose area is likely to be affected by the development in question. Surely that is a better approach.

Finally, the amendment would also require the authorities to take account of the overall conditions of supply and demand for the minerals in question in Greater London or the metropolitan county.

I could go on at some length, but I must say that the noble Lord so far has failed to explain to me why the differences of approach should be made as a result of this Bill. It is quite possible that they should be made anyway, but I fail to see why they should be made as a result of this Bill.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

Perhaps I may give my view. There is an opportunity here to do something and the noble Lord and those who have sought his assistance in this matter are providing it. The fact is that the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, provides the opportunity. I make no aspersion against the Minister's department; it faces enormous pressures and priorities. However, I think the Minister should take on board the point that there is a growing unease among a wide section of the population that the industrial wastelands that have been made by man over the past 100 years are being tackled very, very slowly.

We certainly had a syndrome in those areas where coal had been extracted from the ground, where the tip was stark and hideous, and a great deal of money and attention has been paid to this by Government, local and national, and by other interests. I live in Hertfordshire, and as you go into the Essex and Hertfordshire countryside you come across many areas where gravel has been extracted. Whether it is through carelessness or lack of enforcement, the fact is that many of the conditions which are laid down are not enforced or carried out.

I accept that no case is made out as to why London should be treated differently from elsewhere. However. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, has drawn the public's attention to the fact that this Committee is concerned to make sure that we do not allow the careless operator to get away. Just two hours ago, during the dinner break, the noble Lord and I took part in a debate on compensation to owners of land who had the value of the gravel and the aggregates in the ground gainsaid for community purposes, and that was very amicable and well understood.

Therefore, I think that the amendments have served a useful purpose in telling people outside that we are concerned with a very small matter. If I say that they will see that the Committee leaves no stone unturned, I think that they will get the message.

Lord Harvington

I should like to ask the noble Lord why this should be so. A number of my noble friends in this House have had their land used for opencast coal mining, and it has looked pretty terrible when it has been carried out. To my certain knowledge all that land has been restored and today looks as though it has never been touched. How does it come about that a situation exists, which does not seem to be denied by the Government Front Bench and which has been put forward by noble Lords opposite, that there are such areas in central London? Can anyone explain to me why it is that in other areas of the country these matters have been put right and yet have never been touched in an area so full of people and where amenity is of such great value that it seems impossible to believe that such a state of affairs could exist? I should like to know the answer.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

One answer might be that the restoration of the land after coal has been extracted from it has been the responsibility of a nationalised industry, the National Coal Board. I cast no aspersions. I have used the words "careless"—in other words, the lack of proper enforcement by private companies which have enjoyed the benefits and paid for them, and have accepted the planning authorities' conditions; and sometimes these matters are not put right. I simply use my own very limited experience of the Hertfordshire and Essex area. Large lagoons are created. The fact that they are not filled in provides an opportunity for leisure. Many areas in Buckinghamshire have large leisure facilities which have been born out of this.

I do not make a severe criticism; we are simply trying to take the opportunity of this Bill to put right this matter. I accept the Minister's argument that the case has not been made out for special, separate treatment for London. What we want for London we want extended to the rest of the country.

10 p.m.

Viscount Colville of Culross

I just wonder whether we do, just as simply as that. The noble Lord, Lord Graham, has just said that when it comes to open-cast workings the requirements for restoration may or may not have been fulfilled. I do not know how familiar the noble Lord is with the workings of the 1958 Act, particularly as the responsibility has just recently been transferred from the Department of Energy to the Department of the Environment. However, if the noble Lord were to look into this in any detail, I think he would find that the deemed planning permission which was granted by the 1958 Act included planning conditions about restoration which, as the years have proceeded, have become increasingly complicated and comprehensive and have certainly brought in the Ministry of Agriculture's special attention, because they in fact supervise these sites for five years.

I can tell him from long personal experience now that the restoration procedures have improved quite enormously from the days when this was done under the defence regulations, and even leading up to the introduction of the 1958 Act. If he were to look at this in greater detail I think he would agree that it would be a mistake to generalise from that particular aspect of mineral extraction, where there have long been attached to the deemed planning consent formidably complicated restoration conditions which are enforced, and to extrapolate those to other things.

I appreciate that it is a good thing to discuss this type of matter, and both he and the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, are of course right to take any opportunity they can, but there are two other matters in this group of amendments that I wonder whether we ought just lightly to say should be floated upon parliamentary opinion without any further consideration.

In Amendment No. 17C(b) we, for the first time in history, require an enforcement notice to be issued. Goodness knows how many people have tried since the planning legislation was introduced to force local planning authorities to take enforcement action about something or other that they do not like in their area. It has been a constant, underpinning system of the enforcement notice procedure that it is discretionary upon a local authority, taking account of the development plan and all other relevant circumstances, whether or not they wish to issue enforcement proceedings. Here, for the first time that I have ever heard of, is a mandatory duty which would be enforceable in the courts.

It is a huge step because these matters are immensely sensitive. There is every gradation in the world involved in possible enforcement proceedings from the absolutely minute and petty to the vast and terribly important. Can we lightly, at the Committee stage of something which, to be perfectly honest, I doubt goes centrally to the issue of the whole corpus of town and country planning legislation, introduce for the first time a mandatory procedure of this sort? Goodness knows what it would lead to. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, will himself wish to consider seriously what he is introducing by way of a precedent.

Then, in Amendment No. 17D, everybody knows that there are elderly planning consents going back sometimes even before the 1947 Act where the restoration conditions are wholy inadequate, or which for one reason or another have not been complied with, and the whole system has of course become increasingly improved. But can we suddenly in this legislation introduce something—and it is not said who is going to pay for it—which puts right the derelictions and the defects of a statutory system, and indeed a local government system, which existed a long time ago?

We all know better now, but if we look at some of the mineral extractions which have taken place and look at some of the conditions which were imposed, and the interpretation of them, and try to work out upon whom lies the duty to restore, and whether they can, and whether it could be enforced and, if so, who pays for it, it is just a little short in some of the necessary detail to put it in the way that 17D does.

It is important to grasp the opportunity, but these things happen in Bedfordshire, they happen in all sorts of places outside the metropolitan areas, and it is just as important to people there to get it right. Although I would be happy to discuss it, I think, with the greatest respect, that this is a little in the way of scratching the surface without getting down to some of the more fundamental issues.

Lord Molson

Your Lordships have listened to the contribution from my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross. Just as in an earlier debate today he fired broadshots into me which were very damaging, he has made a contribution to this debate which is of outstanding importance. As the lawyer that he is, he recognises that these matters cannot be dealt with within the ambit of the present Bill. But he has, in confirmation of some of the things that have been said from the Opposition Benches, mentioned how inadequate has been the enforcement of conditions that have been applied in the past. In view of the free ways of discussion in this Committee, where strict relevancy is not enforced as it is elsewhere, I wonder whether the Minister will give an undertaking that the department will consider the interesting points that have been raised by my noble friend Lord Colville with a view to seeing whether at some more convenient time something could be done to deal with these obsolete provisions which apparently have not been enforced.

Lord Skelmersdale

I do not want to prolong this discussion, but I give readily and willingly the undertaking that my noble friend Lord Molson has just asked of me. In doing that I am, as we all are, immensely grateful to my noble friend Lord Colville. I should point out that we recently debated this matter at some length (which is why I have truncated my speech), when we were discussing what is now the Mineral Workings Act. The noble Lord, Lord Graham, the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, and I all took part.

In answer to my noble friend Lord Harvington, there are two reasons why land in London looks a good deal worse than land in other parts of the country when it is despoiled. This is because London has the mixed blessings of lying on a bed of sand and gravel which are all removed and that tends to make an immediate hole in the ground which has to be filled. In other parts of the country coal is more prevalent and that is in a thin seam, so there is only a dip in the land and subsidence.

The last matter I wish to point out is that noble Lords opposite have no superiority, if that is the word—

Baroness Birk

Yes, we have.

Lord Skelmersdale

The noble Baroness should not leap so fast. She might leap more slowly and get more effect out of her interventions. However, I was about to say that (to rephrase it) noble Lords have no monopoly of compassion in industrial wastelands. That is why we have the urban development grant. Ministers in my department who are specifically charged with the responsibility for such subjects are continually wandering around the country looking at it and doing their very best to improve the situation. There is one last point and that is that local authorities, for reasons we all know, are not necessarily builders; so for derelict land there has to be a planning application in the first place. Having said that, I am grateful to everybody who has spoken.

Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran

We have had a most interesting and very helpful debate on these four amendments. I express my gratitude to the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, for his expert advice. We are all grateful to him for giving this real expert advice, free of charge on this occasion. The only thing I can say to him is that if I have taken the step for the first time, taking the first step is nothing to involve a penalty. But, as he knows quite well, I am not an expert in planning matters as he is—one of the most distinguished advocates in that field. However, he knows that I have in Mr. Robbins a son-in-law who is a junior at the town and country planning Bar. I shall give an undertaking to consult his expertise to see whether he agrees with some of the things that the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, said.

I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Molson, for having extracted a very useful undertaking from the Minister in regard to a consideration of the matters that have been put forward by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville.

As to the helpful intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Harvington, I, like him, was very surprised when I found that there was so much despoiled land in the London area and that there was so much lack of consultation between the council and industry in various areas. I am grateful for the helpful intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, with all his experience of London affairs.

I should, if I may, like to pay a special tribute to the Minister on this occasion. He has dealt with a difficult matter very explicitly, lucidly and thoroughly. I am very grateful for what he has done on this occasion. I shall read with very great care what he has said, but at the moment I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 17A.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 17B to 17D not moved.]

[Amendment No. 18 not moved.]

Lord Sandford moved Amendment No. 19: Page 3, line 3, at end insert— (" ( ) The London borough councils shall be required to establish a joint organisation for the purposes of achieving co-ordination and coherence in their planning policies and of enabling them jointly to participate in regional planning for the South of England as a whole.").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 19, and I wish immediately to assure my noble friend on the Front Bench that I have no intention of pressing it. Perhaps I may take this opportunity to move the first amendment in my own name and to congratulate my noble friend on the dexterity with which he has picked up the complexities of the Department of the Environment and left behind the simplicities of the Home Office. Perhaps I may also offer him a little advice, free of charge from an old hand at the Department of the Environment; that is, to keep off the subject of local government finance for as long as he possibly can. Any efforts that he makes in that regard will have my wholehearted support.

I have tabled this amendment for the contingency that has just occurred; namely, the defeat of Amendment No. 8, although I never expected that in the process the Government's majority would have fallen from 126 to 4. It is designed to secure a debate on the future strategic planning in the Greater London area in the absence of any single body, elected or otherwise, covering the whole area.

I should like to start by setting the scene for that debate by quoting from a letter that I wrote in January—after the Bill had started its progress in another place—to the Secretary of State on behalf of the Standing Conference for London and South-East Regional Planning, which, perhaps, from now on we could refer to as SERPLAN. In that letter I wrote on their behalf: Conference believes that the fundamental requirement, for effective planning for the South East region and for the capital itself, is that Greater London should have a properly-constituted and representative body capable of taking, and expressing, a strategic view on land-use and transportation planning matters generally and on particular issues such as minerals planning"— the issue which we have just been discussing— waste disposal, the enhancement of the environment and protection of the Green Belt. The essential characteristics of such a body are that it should be accountable, comprehensive—embracing all the London Boroughs—and assured of resources sufficient to enable it to deploy an adequate and competent staff, able to gather and analyse data and to assist it in the development of policy. Its functions would be to examine and advise upon strategic issues of concern to Greater London, taking full account of the regional context; and to ensure that its findings were given due weight it would be necessary to place certain duties upon the London Boroughs, including a duty to consult with it, to have regard to its advice in the preparation of their unitary development plans and to indicate, when appropriate, why they had found it necessary to depart from the advice given".

10.15 p.m.

In that letter, I then went on to say that it was essential, in the view of the conference, that arrangements should be given a statutory basis. I said that the conference remained of the view that a directly elected body would be the best solution, but that is one which we have now abandoned. I went on to say that: at the very least the Secretary of State should be given power in the Bill to require the London Boroughs to form and maintain a joint body for strategic planning purposes on the lines we have described. The London Fire and Civil Defence Authority affords a possible model, though other arrangements could be devised". My amendment represents one of those.

I then said: Recognising your preference for voluntary arrangements, we have carefully considered whether joint working by the London Borough Councils without a statutory basis would produce what is needed. We have no confidence that voluntary co-operation in this field would be as comprehensive or effective, dependent as it would be on full and continuing participation of all the London Boroughs".

After describing precisely how we were getting on in discussions with the London boroughs at that time, I then said: It is clear that the London Boroughs find it extremely difficult in present circumstances to devise workable voluntary arrangements and there is no assurance that they will succeed in doing so. I have to say now that we are making a certain amount of progress, but we have by no means established the kind of body that my amendment describes.

I ended on behalf of the conference by saying to the Minister: I think I can assure you that, were a body to be established on any of the lines we suggest, the member authorities in the shires would do all in their power to facilitate its full and active participation in regional planning affairs; and, while we would not presume to prescribe how or where the Secretary of State should seek advice, we would see the creation of such a London-wide planning body as diminishing, perhaps even eliminating, the need to set up a London Planning Commission. We should welcome an opportunity to discuss these ideas with you".

I did that with my noble friend on Tuesday of last week.

That is all I want to say about London, but before sitting down I should like to say a word about the other metropolitan counties in the light of our experience in London.

The first point I want to make is that there is no need for anything that is anywhere like as large, as complex or as extensive as SERPLAN anywhere else in the country. None of the other metropolitan areas is anything like as large; in fact, London is larger than all the rest of them put together. None is so complex and in none of the metropolitan counties are there repercussions as great or as far afield into the surrounding shires as is the case in London. But if the metropolitan counties are taken out of the scene and no other single body is put in their place, there must at least be some framework for the collaborative working together of the remaining metropolitan boroughs, and I have to say that there is very little at present.

I have some information on what the situation is and the only one which could be described as remotely satisfactory is that in Greater Manchester where there is an association of the metropolitan authorities. It is a voluntary organisation—unstatutory like SERPLAN. All 11 authorities meet on a regular cycle and seek common ground … over the years there has been a desire in a number of areas to allow local views to take a back seat in order that a Greater Manchester view could be pursued. Many of us believe that the Greater Manchester Association of Metropolitan Authorities will be able to play a vital role in the same way after 1st April 1986. There are a number of functional areas where GMAMA can provide the forum whereby the ten districts can agree their approach to service provision which would benefit from inter-district discussion and from the application of a joint and consistent approach.

In West Yorkshire, all I am able to discover is that there are informal meetings of the leaders of councils and their chief executives, but there is no formal structure. There is nothing in the West Midlands or South Yorkshire. In Tyneside there is no framework for discussion at the metropolitan district level, but some meetings between the shire counties and the metropolitan counties. There is no formal structure in Merseyside.

I appreciate my noble friend's difficulties here. The metropolitan authorities, which should be helping his department and this Committee by telling us more of the collaborative arrangements that they have in mind and that they intend to take, are refusing to make any constructive contributions at all to our deliberations or to the planning in the Department of the Environment. I should like to take this opportunity of urging them to change their stance, if only for the sake of their own employees. My fear is that, in the absence of any preparation of structures for collaborating over planning and in the absence of any contingent arrangements among the other metropolitan boroughs, they will find themselves on 1st April 1986 in a very sorry state and they will find themselves summoned, convened together and presided over by the head of the DoE regional office. That is not something which members of SERPLAN would ever commend to elected bodies anywhere else in the country.

Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran

Before the noble Lord sits down, if I may say so, I found his speech very interesting, but, entirely through my own fault, I did not gather to whom the letter he referred to at the beginning was sent, nor what it was. I missed his explanation of who wrote the letter and who was to receive it. I was wondering also, in trying to follow what he was saying, what was this conference to which he referred. I am sorry that I did not quite gather all that the noble Lord had said.

Lord Sandford

I am very sorry if I did not make myself clear. The conference I was referring to was the Standing Conference for London and South East Regional Planning. I did not elaborate that any more because I did so when we were dealing with Amendment No. 8. The letter I referred to was one that I wrote on their behalf, actually on 30th January, by which time the Bill was already progressing through another place; and it was addressed to the Minister for Local Government.

Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran

I am very much obliged to the noble Lord.

Lord Elton

I am most grateful to my noble friend, first of all, for the extremely kind remarks with which he opened his speech on this amendment—slightly kinder, I think, than I deserve—and, secondly, for the word of warning which he gave me. I can assure him that it was something approaching the superfluous: I have no intention of ever discussing local government finance when the circumstances do not dictate that I must.

I am also grateful to my noble friend for instruction in another form, because he has held office in the department where I now newly serve. He gained great experience there and has subsequently gone on to put that experience to very good use in the public service, I think one can only describe it as, in his present role of SERPLAN—which I believe used to be called something else—

Lord Sandford


Lord Elton

That is right. My noble friend's amendment relates to London but he concluded his remarks by some observations about arrangements outside London, which I shall read with very great care and attention. I would only seek to echo what he said about non-co-operation, because he strikes a chord which has been resounding in my breast ever since I picked up my responsibilities and discovered that there are people who are convinced that they can in some way forward some useful interest, even after both Houses of Parliament have committed the legislature of this country to abolish the metropolitan and the Greater London county councils, by making no preparation for the arrangements that will follow abolition and allowing none of their staff to discuss them. I do not want to become tedious on the subject: I merely repeat that that is flatly contrary to the interests of the employees of those authorities. You cannot plan careers when you do not know if there is going to be employment; and you cannot tell if there is going to be employment until you discuss arrangements. It seems to me a cynical way to treat the careers and futures of people who very often have given their lives to their employers. What a way to treat employees! But we are concerned at this juncture not so much with the employees as with the electorate and with the people who have to live in the areas in question. That brings me back to the main theme of my noble friend.

There is no difference between us on the need for the boroughs themselves to play a proper role in regional planning for the South-East as a whole. I have already spoken about the strategic role of the Secretary of State and I stand by all I said, but I in no way diminish the importance that I attribute to the contribution from the boroughs because there must be an input to the regional strategy. This is what my noble friend is advising me to arrange. There must be an input from the very local level of the boroughs.

The noble Lord has already received assurances that we recognise as important liaison between London authorities and those in the rest of the South-East region, and I have recognised the importance of his role as chairman of SERPLAN, in which role he will be fully aware that the Government are anxious that SERPLAN should play as participative a role as possible in the new planning régime. I see this as being particularly directed towards liaison with the London Planning Commission, with whom I hope they will be able to establish a close relationship.

I am confident also that the boroughs will want to play their part in SERPLAN. My noble friend tells me that there are increasing signs of co-operation. I believe that they are more willing to take up their new responsibilities than is sometimes suggested by the opponents of the Bill. I would certainly welcome any steps they may take towards voluntary joint arrangements for liaison, as and when necessary, with neighbouring authorities both within Greater London and in the Home Counties. Such steps could also encompass London-wide research and information functions under the new powers we are providing in the revised Clause 86, which my noble friend may have seen we have put in the Bill as Amendment No. 140A to provide strengthened arrangements in response to suggestions made by the boroughs themselves.

Like my noble friend's amendments, such steps would not in any way disturb the new unitary development plan arrangements; nor would they constrain the boroughs except to the extent that they themselves collectively decide in the exercise of the planning and other powers being devolved to them under the Bill. This is clearly of paramount importance and it is why, in responding to the debate on the amendments of the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, earlier today, I indicated that if any statutory revisions are needed it would be preferable to build on my noble friend's amendment to take account of some of the concerns voiced in that debate. As your Lordships will know, we believe that decisions should properly be taken at the borough and district level.

Against that background I should prefer—I think your Lordships also may prefer—not to impose upon them statutory arrangements without proper consultation with those authorities themselves. I do however undertake to consult the London Boroughs Association and the Association of London Authorities, if they are forthcoming, on whether they would wish to see formal arrangements of some suitable kind built into the Bill to facilitate the degree of co-operation between them that we all consider desirable. My state of knowledge of the art is not sufficiently advanced for me to be more precise, but I give my noble friend this assurance. We are prepared to go into this consultation with an open mind, and in a less formal chamber I shall consult my noble friend further as to how he can give me wisdom on the way I should proceed.

Baroness Birk

I have—

Lord Elton

I was about to give a nicely rounded period to which my noble friend could respond, but I see another response is required so I shall simply sit down.

10.30 p.m.

Baroness Birk

I have considerable sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, is attempting to do. He is obviously trying to find a mechanism for selecting one voice to represent what might be 33 quite disparate voices gathered together over this question of co-ordination and coherence in planning policy.

I can see that there are problems here, apart from what the Minister has just said. The amendment is by its very nature rather vague but the noble Lord has attempted to strengthen it by using the word "shall" instead of making it voluntary. Although I cannot say that we are very enamoured of the amendment as it stands, we appreciate what the noble Lord is trying to do; at least he is introducing a positive power, whereas the voluntary joint arrangements which the Minister just suggested would not I think work very well. The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, has considerable experience in this area and that is precisely why he proposes to make this provision mandatory.

The Minister referred to the amendments moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, and the noble Viscount, Lord Esher. I may point out that when the Minister was replying to those amendments, he did not say anything about a number of the points raised—particularly by the noble Viscount, Lord Esher—concerning specialist teams. This is of relevance to the amendment that is before us now; but those points received no reply in our earlier and rather more wider-ranging debate.

In showing sympathy for this proposal, the Government are conceding the need for some form of county-wide view of planning—although in a rather minimal way. The joint organisation, if it comes about, will presumably have no powers and no resources—nothing is said about these aspects in the amendment and I do not know whether the Minister has any views about them. It is meant to replace the London planning commission that is currently in the Bill, but if it is to be an organisation having some teeth then it must be able to do something with those teeth—and have some bite as well, in order to employ its teeth.

The noble Lord is attempting, very laudably, to find a way of dealing with the problems we now face. We would have been in a far better position had Amendment No. 8 been passed; we would not have found ourselves in this round-the-houses position. That is absolutely true—it can only be a fact.

There is one other point, and it is one in which the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, also has an interest and she may wish to comment on it. It concerns the position of the metropolitan counties. The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, mentioned that there was an attempt in Manchester to draw some boroughs together. I believe he also mentioned Birmingham, but I gather from my noble friend Lady Fisher of Rednal that there is a forum in Birmingham. How would that fit in? It seems to me that any such organisation would need to be stronger, less vague, and not voluntary. Also, it must apply to the metropolitan counties as well as to London.

Lord Hunt

I, like other members of the Committee, was most interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, put to us; and no one speaks with greater authority as regards the district councils and the borough councils than himself. I hope that the noble Lord will forgive me if I say that at this stage of our discussion I am a bit of a Doubting Thomas—strictly in the context of this amendment. The noble Lord refers to a planning organisation, and quite understandably he was no doubt anticipating the demise and fall of the earlier amendments which would have set up what would have been called an Authority. He admitted that these 32 or 33 very disparate London boroughs—disparate in the nature of their populations and their politics and in other ways—are beginning to show signs of a willingness to co-operate beyond their borough boundaries. However, I think he implied that there is a very long way to go.

He described this organisation as advisory, hoping that there will be voluntary co-operation. He has certainly not convinced us of his own conviction that there will be total agreement. What worries me is that with the prospect, as I see it, if not the certainty, that there will not be total agreement once such an organisation has been statutorily set up, there will be lacuni, gaps, in certain vital areas. I particularly have in mind the green belt. What happens—and l put this only as a question —if several of the boroughs having a patch of their borough boundaries within the green belt area decline to agree in their consultations and discussions of an advisory nature within this organisation? Surely the whole concept of the totality, the integrity, of that aspect—and there must be other aspects—will be in jeopardy.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

My noble friend mentioned the Birmingham area. The West Midlands forum of county councils covers all the areas, including the travel-to-work area of the West Midlands county. Their greatest concern is that with the abolition of the metropolitan county, the chief strategic part of the whole West Midlands conurbation, which includes not only the county but also the shire counties around it, will be the West Midlands county. It includes the motorway network of many major roads going north, south, east and west.

The forum are concerned that that major strategic authority will be lost completely under the Bill. Therefore, they are saying that if they cannot have democratically elected representatives to be part and parcel of the forum with the officers, obviously they will need to keep the strategic influence of the West Midlands county because the other areas are so dependent upon it for major re-routing. It is not, perhaps, the same idea that the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, enunciated, but it is as important, and I should have thought that the Ministry of Transport would have agreed that it is as important because of the motorway service that runs right the way though the Midlands area.

Baroness Stedman

There is an opportunity of working on the proposition put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, but I agree with my colleagues on this side of the Committee that we need to know more about the organisation and how it is to be funded. Although the Minister does not want to get into local government finance we need to know how it is to be funded and staffed and what sort of powers it will have. It is no good just setting up another voluntary organisation. It is a mandatory organisation which needs to have the necessary powers and it needs to have the means and the strength to carry out the powers given to it.

The Minister also said that it was something worthy of further consultation and that it was not something to be rushed into quickly tonight. But if there is to be further consultation, like other speakers from this side of the Committee, I should like to see it extended to the metropolitan county areas as well as to London, because there is just as much need there for them to have some co-ordination as there is in the City of London itself.

Lord Sandford

I am most grateful to noble Lords for the short debate that we have had and to my noble friend on the Front Bench for what he said about his willingness to have further consultations before the next stage. The terms of my amendment were not at all even an attempt at producing a definitive solution to the problem. It was just, as I said at the beginning, designed to produce a useful debate, and I am glad that it has done that.

If I may respond to what the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher, said, of course I was aware of the West Midlands forum. The structures that I was referring to and pointing out the need for were fresh structures within which the metropolitan boroughs could co-operate. The West Midlands forum is now a doughnut, as it were, consisting of the shire counties surrounding the West Midlands and nothing in the middle, and it is how to fill up that middle area to which we need to address ourselves.

There are a number of ways of doing it. I cannot from my experience with SERPLAN argue that it is absolutely essential to have a statutory body, because SERPLAN has existed and attracted the support of the 12 Home Counties, the 32 London boroughs and the 98 shire districts on a voluntary, non-statutory basis for 20 years; so it can be done. The ability to do it now depends almost exclusively on the willingness of the AMA to participate. All the bodies that do not have structures and need to come into and form structures or else be obliged to form them by statute are members of the AMA. It is their failure to co-operate which is causing the difficulties that we are in at the moment.

But, leaving that to one side, I think that Parliament has to take a view before the Bill leaves us on whether we can in the circumstances afford to leave this on an entirely non-statutory basis or whether statutory powers of some sort are required to be incorporated in the Bill or a statutory power left to the Secretary of State to use if the collaborative measures do not arise in a voluntary way at some later date. But I think that we have now covered the subject adequately—

Lord Elton

My noble friend is most gracious. May I just use the opportunity to reply to a specific point which I was asked? I was asked to say something about specialist teams, which one noble Baroness or the other suggested that I should have done. I could at an earlier stage have said that we look to district and borough councils to make such arrangements for local co-operation as they see necessary where reclamation concerns more than one authority. There are already cases where that happens. For example, in the Black Country, co-operation is already taking place. The Government have made it clear that they will use their good offices to assist in the establishment of such arrangements.

Clearly the determination of opponents of the Government's policy to prevent constructive discussions is unhelpful. The Government have, however, made it clear that should that attitude prevent permanent arrangements from being made in time, the residuary body might maintain existing services, such as a reclamation team, for a transitional period. So far as planning research and information are concerned, our new Clause 86, to which I have already referred, provides for a scheme which could well include a specialist unit.

In conclusion, perhaps I may say that the situation is, as I see it, this, and that I think that it has been a useful debate. My noble friend has put down an amendment. It is a probing amendment but it contains two elements. The first is that the borough councils shall be in some way required to establish a joint organisation for the purposes of achieving co-ordination and coherence so that what they propose goes together. The second element is that they shall then be able jointly to participate in regional planning for the South-East of England as whole. My noble friend and I are at one in wishing to achieve both this coherence and that contribution.

My noble friend has suggested by putting the not altogether innocuous word "shall" in place of the quite innocuous word "may" that this might be made in some way compulsory. I have said that we recognise that there may be a need for something more formal than we have now proposed. Whether the word "may" or "shall" will be in it is no doubt something for discussion. But I have said that this is something that we see as directly concerning the boroughs in question, and we are prepared to talk with them about this informally and soon in the person of the two associations which now aspire to represent the boroughs. I think that that is where we left it. I am most grateful to my noble friend for giving me the opportunity to reply.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

Before the noble Lord sits down, is he in a position to say anything about the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher, on the ability to extend the principle which is contained within this amendment to the metropolitan authorities? In other words, are the purposes and aims which are sought to be served by this amendment capable of being applied to the metropolitan authorities?

Lord Elton

Of course I shall always listen with the closest interest and I shall read, again with the closest interest, what the noble Baroness has said. However, the amendment to which I responded and on which I was briefed related only to London, so I do not think the noble Lord will expect me to go further.

Lord Sandford

I am most grateful. I have only two very small points to make. I do indeed think it would be useful if, in the discussions we have, we bear in mind not only the needs of London but also the needs of the other metropolitan counties. I do not think it is for me to formulate amendments about metropolitan counties in which I have no particular stake. I should not want to take that on. However, I should very much welcome an initiative of that kind coming from one of those areas and from the AMA.

The only other point I want to make is this. After the debate that we have had, I think we can leave this topic, fairly safely assuming that some way will be found of bringing the metropolitan authorities together. Therefore it is possible to conceive of bodies like SERPLAN coming into existence to take care of strategic and regional planning in the absence of the metropolitan counties. In those circumstances, I think it is possible, when we reach them, to look at amendments to Clause 6 with the possibility of some of the functions about which noble Lords are anxious on those amendments being added to the agendas of the strategic and regional planning conferences.

Lord Elton

Perhaps I may say this rather timorous word. That does not give us much time to get any fruition from the first round of consultations. It may take us until Report to come to a conclusion. I only say that in case my noble friend expects me to come up with a complete answer by Clause 6.

Lord Sandford

No. I am sorry; I did not make myself clear. I was assuming that we certainly would not be able to resolve this matter by the time we reach Amendment No. 52. What I was saying was that in the absence of any resolution of the matter, I think I would be safe to go on the assumption that we shall reach a conclusion by Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Lord Skelmersdale

I beg to move that the House do now resume.

House resumed.

House adjourned at thirteen minutes before 11 o'clock.

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