HL Deb 02 May 1985 vol 463 cc346-404

3.21 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Lord Elton)

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Elton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD ABERDARE in the Chair.]

Clause 4 [Development plans]:

[Amendment No. 20 not moved.]

Baroness Birk moved Amendment No. 21: Page 3, line 8, leave out ("in any such area").

The noble Baroness said: At the present time we have one national planning system. This Bill will give one system in large cities and another in the rest of the boroughs and the districts. On top of this, the Government can bring in a new system, borough by borough and district by district. Therefore it will be much more complicated. The whole matter will be full of complexities.

The amendment seeks to reduce the Secretary of State's discretion over when and where to bring the new planning system into operation, by forcing him, by statute, to bring it into force within one year of the abolition date and throughout London and the metropolitan counties at the same time. The discretion over where to introduce the system I am afraid is also equally ludicrous because it could lead to different parts of London and different parts of the metropolitan counties operating under different planning systems. Effective co-ordination would therefore be impossible and considerable confusion almost inevitable.

The introduction of the system throughout London and the metropolitan counties at the same time would minimise such occurrences. It would reduce confusion. It would also reduce costs and save a great deal of trouble and concern among many people whose plans are involved in this. The strategic view of land-use planning would be almost impossible to develop or retain if each local council prepared unitary plans at different times. Co-ordination of data collection, analysis and interpretation would be lost. This is very important and would be a very great loss. Policies would be unlikely to add up to a sensible whole when considered across boroughs for the conurbations as a whole.

I must point out that this arrangement would be wholly unnecessary if a strategic planning authority were retained for each county as a whole. However, because at the moment we do not have that in the Bill, we have to try to improve it to the best of all our abilities. It would be intolerable if the already confused system of town planning proposed in the Bill were to be compounded by having different metropolitan areas subject to quite different systems of plan making.

Without the provision contained in the amendment, the Secretary of State could unreasonably delay the start of work on the new unitary plans. The unreasonable delay may not be deliberate but may be due to what goes on, the amount of work in a department and the amount of work which is now being heaped higher and higher on to the plate of the Secretary of State. It would mean that the delays could be even greater than they have been and are in the planning system at the moment, a matter on which many of us have been exercised for some considerable time. Thus there may be a delay to the start of work on the new unitary plans, without which strategic plans in the metropolitan areas would become progressively more out of date.

I do not think these amendments are of such shattering importance that they knock anything or any principle in the Bill. They are a very constructive attempt to get a better and more simple planning system within the context of the Bill as it is. I beg to move.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I understand what the noble Baroness seeks to achieve by these amendments. I am sure she feels that she is making a constructive attempt. The Bill as drafted permits the new system of unitary plans to be introduced in different areas on different days. That is really what worries the noble Baroness—who I see is trying to rally support; perhaps with indifferent success, but that remains to be seen.

Baroness Birk

No. I was just asking my noble friend how she was today.

Lord Elton

I am sorry that it seemed to be such a saddening reply that she received!

If the amendments were accepted, all areas would be treated alike and all boroughs and districts would be obliged to begin the work of preparing a unitary development plan on the same day. Not all areas are the same, nor are all authorities at present at the same stage of the process of structure and local plan preparation. It follows that it would be unreasonable to treat them alike in the manner which the amendment proposes.

If the Committee compare, for example, Greater Manchester with Merseyside, they will see what I mean. Greater Manchester have a structure plan with proposed alterations which are well advanced and will bring their policies forward to 1991, no less. In addition, local authorities in the area have 13 adopted local plans and 33 local plans at different stages of preparation. The Merseyside structure plan, on the other hand, carries forward development proposals only to 1986. There are seven adopted local plans and eight more being proposed. Surely it must be best to take these considerations into account in determining when the authorities need to begin to prepare new unitary development plans.

As the Committee will be aware, the transitional provisions in Part 3 of Schedule 1 of the Bill provide for existing structure plans to continue in force until a commencement order is issued. They also provide for the continued preparation of local plans which will be ultimately incorporated in the new unitary development plans. In some areas, local planning authorities which are presently preparing local plans will wish to complete this work before they begin to address their minds to the new system. To abort that process, as the amendment proposes, would not lead to savings and simplicity but to delay and confusion.

Clearly, the Bill should allow for this and provide for work to continue, particularly where the authorities have local plans on deposit and local plans which have been the subject of a local public inquiry. It would equally clearly be wrong—would it not?—for us to call for new plans, as this amendment would do, where adequate plans already exist. Again, the amendments ask the local planning authorities to undertake additional and unnecessary work and not to make savings or proceed in a simplified manner.

I speak not in any contentious spirit; but I hope that I have explained to the noble Baroness that what she sees as an unequal patchwork of confusion is in fact a very flexible way of enabling us to benefit from those areas of planning which are already well advanced and not precipitately replace them; whereas we can under this system call for additional planning where it is now due. Thus, I hope the noble Baroness will not feel bound to press this amendment.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

Surely my noble friend the Minister has made a reasoned case for the retention of the measure of flexibility which is contained in the Bill. On those grounds it would surely be right not to queer that pitch by the amendment.

Baroness Lockwood

I wonder whether the noble Lord the Minister can tell the Committee what is to happen in those metropolitan county areas where the new structure plan has not received the authority of the Minister. For example, the West Yorkshire structure plan which has been with the Minister for some time has not been approved by him. It has been held up. What will happen in such areas? The structure plan has been crucial to the development of housing, industry, the preservation of the green belt and so on. Will there be a hiatus in areas such as those?

Lord Elton

No. The structure plan will remain in force until there is a commencement order.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

This is rather confusing. The metropolitan counties were established because of the difficulties of strategic planning. The idea was for strategic planning to operate through a much wider area, especially in built-up areas. This was most important in order to protect green belt areas. I recall often on the town and country issue that those in the countryside did not want more of the town encroaching upon their areas for housing or other purposes. It concerns me greatly that we are now going back to the circumstances that operated previously.

The Government are saying that what the 1974 reorganisation tried to overcome should now be restored. In other words, we are recreating muddle. We shall have unitary plans from the districts with the Secretary of State trying to perform a strategic function. That seems completely contrary to what is needed. The strategic function will not be carried out by the Secretary of State. He will be much too busy. We know what will happen. The work will be done by the regional offices of the department—in other words, by a group of civil servants who will perhaps not know half as much about strategic planning as the planners already employed in the metropolitan counties.

It seems to me to be crazy that we should be changing over from what is a very good system of planning to a mish-mash, as my noble friend Lady Birk spelt out. The Minister has to recognise that if you are to protect the green belt—I am not opposed to that—it is necessary to make the best possible use of derelict land inside the metropolitan counties and so enable housing and industrial development to take place within those areas. I support what my noble friend has said in that strategic planning is perhaps one of the most important facets of protecting the green belt.

Lord Elton

I would not disagree with the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher of Rednal, about the preference for in-filling over the use of the green belt. I hardly feel, however, that it is germane to this question. The noble Baroness said that we were returning to the conditions that we sought to cure in 1974. On the first half of that proposition, I rely entirely on what was stated by my noble friend Lord Bellwin at the conclusion of the debate on Tuesday on the general principle. On top of what we had in 1974, we have two differences. We have the unitary plan in two parts. There is the part designed to secure the objectives of the old strategic development plan. Above that, which is unitary and in the hands of the local authority, we have the strategic guidance produced by the Secretary of State. We have talked about this a good deal. I have tried to show your Lordships that it will be simple and flexible. It will be founded upon a great deal of advice, much of it generated at local level.

I do not believe that the noble Baroness should altogether denigrate the abilities of the civil servants. In so far as she may feel they are a threat to local interests, the strategic guidance will be exposed to local consideration and advice to the Secretary of State. We are actually further on than we were before the reorganisation. That proved to be a wrong turn. We are now on the right road.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

Are not these conferences purely advisory? There is nothing statutory about the advisory bodies that will advise the Secretary of State. Local authorities are to be asked to join together but there is no compulsion. There is nothing in the Bill so far as I can see to say that it is a statutory requirement.

Lord Elton

If the local authorities do not wish to protect either their interests or those of their electorates, it is open to them to cut off their noses to spite their faces. I hardly think that they will do that.

Baroness Birk

My answer to what the Minister has said is, "Well, he would have to say that, wouldn't he?". He has to defend what is in the Bill even though it makes, I still maintain, for much greater confusion and more complication. My noble friends Lady Lockwood and Lady Fisher of Rednal are absolutely right. They have made out powerful cases that have not been answered by the Minister. The noble Lord said something about criticism of civil servants. That is not the point. The point is that Ministers will be overloaded with what is put on them. I do not imagine that the noble Lord or his right honourable friend are going to be able to spend a great deal of time; and even if they did spend from morning to night and did not sleep at all they would still not be able to deal personally with all the powers given them in the Bill. So of course it comes down to the civil servants—to different layers of different civil servants doing these jobs.

Once again, it is immediately exposed at the beginning of this clause how the new system will work and how unsatisfactory it will prove. I do not, however, propose to press the amendment at this stage. I should like to read carefully what the Minister has said and to find all the many other holes that I have not yet discovered to be exposed in his argument. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 22 and 23 not moved.]

[Amendments Nos. 24, 25 and 25A had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Clause 4 agreed to.

Schedule 1 [Development plans]:

[Amendment No. 26 not moved].

Baroness Birk moved Amendment No. 27: Page 74, line 8, after ("shall") insert ("jointly with the other local planning authorities in Greater London or as the case may be the metropolitan county").

The noble Baroness said: It may be for the convenience of the Committee to consider also Amendments Nos. 28, 29, 30 and 31.

The Bill provides for each borough and district to look at its own area. The Government proposals mean that there will be no single organisation to produce research and information for planning in London and the "mets". There will not be one overall organisation to do this. The only provision consists of the enabling powers under Clause 86 which will enable boroughs and districts jointly to carry out research and collect information. But it would not necessarily be directly related to the needs of planning.

The amendment requires the boroughs and districts to consider what information they need and to carry out any surveys that may be required. That will go some way to maintaining the present services which are vital to the development of effective planning policies. One of the reasons for the GLC being set up was to provide a central London-wide research and information service. This is widely used by central Government, boroughs, developers, commerce and voluntary groups. The amendment would require the continuation of the service to be considered. This precise point is relevant to the metropolitan counties, where, in the different counties, they have built up equivalent services which are exercised county-wide and therefore have the benefit of the expertise of extremely experienced staff.

A strategic plan is only as good as the information upon which it is based, and in particular this should be collected according to uniform standards across the whole conurbation if policies of relevance and fairness to every part of the conurbation are to be achieved. Without the amendment the proposed unitary plans have very little chance of remaining relevant to the problems of the conurbations, and, indeed, the problems themselves will have little chance of being articulated or understood. I believe that this group of amendments really is essential to a Bill of this sort. I beg to move.

Lord Skelmersdale

These amendments propose that local planning authorities in Greater London and the metropolitan counties should act jointly to keep matters affecting the development of London and the metropolitan areas under consideration, and should make joint decisions as to whether to carry out a survey of such matters. The amendments are therefore attempting to carry forward joint working for the whole area of London and the conurbations.

I accept that these amendments fall short of making it a requirement for the local planning authorities to institute a joint survey of their area, but they would nevertheless impose an unnecessary burden on the authorities by making it a matter for a joint decision as to whether a survey should be carried out. We do not expect that, after abolition, all areas in Greater London and the metropolitan counties or the areas as a whole will necessarily require a new survey before the local planning authority can begin to prepare its unitary development plan. Not all the areas in one county will have the same amount of development plan coverage in existence at abolition date. It may be that one area had been surveyed quite recently, while another only had access to fairly limited or out-of-date data. Each borough or district, with its own experience of local issues, will be best placed to keep such matters under review and to make its own decisions on the need for a new survey.

As we have previously explained, there are a few matters that need to be dealt with across borough and district boundaries—the noble Baroness is of course quite right. These will, however, be covered in the strategic guidance, which will be supported, as necessary, by appropriate factual material. The London Planning Commission and planning conferences in the metropolitan areas will be able to identify the major issues which need to be considered across an area as a whole and will provide the most appropriate focal point for collecting information on such issues.

In addition, Clause 86 of the Bill provides for research and collection of information by groups of boroughs or districts. We have also tabled amendments—in particular, Amendment No. 140A—which further strengthen the clause to provide for a lead borough to undertake research and information collection on a London or county-wide basis should the local authorities so wish. Constituent councils in each area will thus be able to make a scheme for such matters with a designated council exercising the research and information powers, subject to a two-thirds majority. The designated council will also be able to require other councils to contribute data to keep the databases up to date. Finally, the clause provides a free-standing research and intelligence power to allow smaller groups of boroughs or districts to make voluntary arrangements to collect information on matters concerning their areas quite separately from any London or countywide scheme. I am sure that the Committee will agree that these arrangements, together with the powers to institute a survey, will be more than adequate to allow councils to work both individually and together to gather information prior to preparing their individual UDPs. Indeed, I would argue that they make any such amendment as the one proposed by the noble Baroness redundant.

We are transferring functions connected with development plans, including powers for surveys, to the boroughs and districts; we are giving them powers for area-wide research and information collection; and I cannot believe that they will thank us for superimposing an additional requirement on them to undertake joint monitoring and to consider preparing joint surveys. They will be best placed to decide what is needed, and, therefore, I would urge the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendments.

3.45 p.m.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

From listening to the noble Lord's reply, I sometimes wonder whether the noble Lord recognises how difficult it is for local authorities to get together on these matters. The boundaries are so close together in the metropolitan areas. If the noble Lord was going to the West Midlands, an area which I know very well indeed, he would not realise that he had left Birmingham and had entered Sandwell, West Bromwich or Walsall, because it is a completely built-up area. If one crosses the road, one can find oneself in another district. Therefore, because of that and the historical background of the people who live in these areas, to expect them to work separately as districts and then to ask them to get together on joint ventures will not work.

The noble Lord said that there will be a lead authority, and again I use the example of the West Midlands, the area which I know best. I suppose that for a lead authority one would look to the largest authority—the authority which has the biggest population, the highest rateable value and perhaps a greater input of specialised staff. As soon as it is decided who the lead authority shall be—and presumably in the West Midlands it would be Birmingham—the other districts would immediately think that they had a big brother to make the decisions and impress the Secretary of State.

Therefore, I believe that it is very difficult to ask districts to get together under a lead authority. Whether or not it will work is open to debate. I would simply say that at present the West Midlands is experiencing great difficulty over a major road, which is quite well known to the transport Minister. The majority of the road is to pass through one district and a smaller section is to pass through a smaller district, and even the transport Minister is having difficulty getting that major road through those two local authorities in the West Midlands. Therefore, when the noble Lord asks that this should take place, is it not really pie in the sky?

Lord Hylton

I should like to support the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher, by giving this example from Bristol and Bath, which are an almost continuous conurbation with very short gaps in between on the north bank of the River Avon. I well recall the very serious difficulty that my late father had when he was chairman of the Somerset County Council Planning Committee in getting the various then fragmented authorities ever to work together. It so happens that the new County of Avon is an ordinary county and not a metropolitan county, and therefore the planning situation will continue to be as it was in 1974, but in a rather better state. I hope that on those grounds at least the Government will have second thoughts on this matter.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

Very briefly, surely mandatory joint review does not grasp the problem which the noble Baroness seeks to expose. I agree that as regards strategic planning there is the need for a measure of co-ordination. This point was made by my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross the other day, on Second Reading. I wonder whether my noble friend the Minister would agree that this is a matter that should be looked into. True, as my noble friend said, advice is tendered by the planning authorities to the Secretary of State; but that does not quite take the point of the need for the co-ordination of that advice on strategic planning. Or does it? I do not know, but would this not go some way to meet the point that the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, is making? With the utmost respect to her, does this amendment of mandatory joint review really meet the point? I am not trying to take a debating point; I am merely asking.

Lord Shinwell

Without discussing the merits of the issue before the Committee—I confess that I am not competent to undertake that task—I must say that I have listened to much of the debate. What I have failed to listen to I have read, usually through the night. I have read practically every word uttered by Members of your Lordships in Committee and in the other stages, so I have a fair idea of what is happening. My conclusion—I think it is a conclusion—is that no matter what the Opposition may say about various features of this legislation, the Government do not intend to yield a single inch.

We have had an example already this afternoon: an amendment was moved and it had to be withdrawn. The second amendment has been moved and is supported by a noble Baroness on this side of the Committee and a noble Lord on the Cross-Benches—I presume therefore completely independent and not subject to any party discipline, which is very useful on occasion (I mean the absence of it)—and also by one of the most able legal experts in the Chamber on the other side, the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway.

Now I am fairly certain—in fact I am prepared to take a chance and put a bet on it, although not too high as I cannot afford it, it might be a loser—that the Government are not going to yield an inch on this issue. They will find some sort of argument. They have probably consulted their advisers and have been told, "Don't give way". At the end of the discussion my noble friend Lady Birk will then, in the usual fashion, somewhat reluctantly rise and say, "I withdraw the amendment". Well, I dislike that intensely.

Lord Elton

Would the noble Lord give way?

Lord Shinwell

Yes, certainly.

Lord Elton

I trespass on the noble Lord's intervention with greater hesitation than I would on almost anybody else. He has been longer in Parliament and in this world than I have been or am ever likely to be. But in this matter and in this Committee I think the noble Lord may have things just a little out of focus.

We are actually out of order because we are not now discussing the amendment but discussing the general proceedings. However, if I may follow the noble Lord for a moment in that direction, there were yesterday 141 amendments which had been put down on the Marshalled List, and there are now additions. I am sure that the noble Lord would not expect us to deal with all those amendments in a spirit of charity and yield them all to the Opposition on a points basis that having been beaten once, they ought to be given some to make them happy or none because they should not be yielded.

We have to discuss the issues on the merits. The issues are complicated, and my noble friend addressed them extremely competently. I ask the Committee to continue to address each amendment on its merits and not to look at a sort of tally board because I cannot tell when the concessions we are able to make might strike. If they were all on the last day the noble Lord would be in apoplexy before we got there.

Lord Shinwell

So far I have endured, or tolerated, a very substantial intervention. In ordinary circumstances, I might regard it as being offensive with regard to the sort of action I might undertake. I cannot agree with what the noble Minister has just said, that we have a great many issues involved and one cannot deal with every aspect of them. This is important legislation. It affects the whole future administration of London and the conurbation associated with London.

Of course it is very important, whatever views may be held—biased views, views based on prejudice, views based on whether one would support the Government on occasion or sometimes offer an opinion rather adverse to the Government's proposals. We have that all to consider.

If we are now going to go through the Committee stage, the Report stage, Third Reading and so on, and we are going to be in a situation that amendments are moved and always withdrawn, then I am going to make a suggestion to my noble friends, if I may. I hope that they do not mind if I make this suggestion: if the Government adopt this attitude—and it looks as though they are going to continue with it—we should divide on every issue involved. That would not mean that I would be involved in every one of the debates because I would not be staying; but at any rate I would be reading—as I have already informed the Committee—the debates and watching who is voting on one side or the other, and come to my conclusions accordingly.

No, this sort of thing will not do. This is very important legislation affecting the whole future of London's administration, and it will probably affect the whole country in due course. Therefore one side or the other has to decide or the Government will not give way on anything. If they obviously are not going to give way on anything then we have to divide against them and make the position clear.

I was waiting for my noble opponent—I was about to say "friend" but I dare not say that—the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, to get up and say something about it. I know where he stands. He stands on the side of the Government no matter what happens. No question of debate about it; no question of argument; no question of discussing the issues step by step and sentence by sentence. He makes up his mind about the issues. He is on the side of the Government, and he knows what he intends to do. I know that he will get up shortly and try to make a mess of what I have been saying. Let me assure him that he cannot make a mess of it because what I have been saying is right.

I am advising the Opposition what to do. Fight the other side occasionally, and more particularly when we have, as we have just had, opposition on one side, and on both sides a certain measure of opposition which is indicative of the kind of general opinion that exists in the Committee. Let us take advantage of that.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

For the sake of the record as my name was mentioned, may I say that the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, misunderstood. I opposed the amendment. The noble Baroness will confirm that I opposed the amendment, but I did go with her in another direction. I did not want to be misunderstood at a later stage. I am grateful to your Lordships for allowing me to say that.

Baroness Lockwood

I hope that the Minister will take note of what his noble friend has said. It is important that there should be as much liaison as possible on this whole question. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, did not really reply to my previous intervention. I was referring to the updating of the West Yorkshire structure plan, which is still with the Minister and which is awaiting ministerial approval. It has been with him since last summer.

That particular structure plan has the wholehearted support of all the districts within the metropolitan county area. Nevertheless, it is quite significant that there have been problems in the past. One of the problems, for instance, on the development of the industrial infrastructure came from the authority which is likely, or would be likely, to be the lead authority in West Yorkshire if his proposals were carried through.

4 p.m.

The point that I would make to him—and I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, is not here to hear me make this point—is that a couple of days ago the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, referred to some of the Labour councillors in districts in West Yorkshire who had indicated to him that the districts wanted to go ahead and they could carry out some of these functions. All I would say in response to that is that the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, obviously lends his ear to Labour councillors with whom I do not come into contact. The fact is that they are all behind West Yorkshire in the development of the structure plans, but we do need a framework in which we can continue with these structure plans if this Bill goes through. If the Minister cannot accept my noble friend's amendment, then I hope that at least he will listen to what his noble friend has said and perhaps come back to it.

Lord Elton

We have strayed so far from Amendment No. 27 that I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I take 30 seconds to reply to an earlier point that the noble Baroness has put to me. Of course, she is aware that the West Yorkshire structure plan is at present under consideration by my right honourable friend for the use of his powers under the paving Act. That is not an unreasonable consideration given that the original structure plans took several years to develop. The Greater London development plan took seven years to develop, being based on earlier work. To come to a conclusion between the putting forward of the proposals there and the abolition date is a fairly tall order. I cannot yet tell her, of course, what my right honourable friend will conclude. I suggest that we now return to Amendment No. 27.

Lord Skelmersdale

If I may be allowed to answer some of the points that have been raised in this short debate, the first thing I should like to say on the amendment as it stands on the Order Paper—this is probably an answer to the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell—is that if it was within the principle of the Bill and made things better we would of course take it away, consider it, and, in other words, accept it in principle; but from my earlier comments the Committee will realise that I do not think this amendment falls into that category. The noble Baroness, Lady Fisher, was worried about the districts, especially in the West Midlands, getting their act together. She did not actually use those words, but that is what she meant. There are two points here.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

The point is that it is got together. The West Midlands county has got the act together. What you are going to do is try to smash it all up. That is the point of it.

Lord Skelmersdale

In that case, if it has got itself together does it really need the metropolitan county of the West Midlands to keep it together? This really should be the argument.

If I may again return to the various points that I had noted, before the 1974 reorganisation local planning authorities were in general very much smaller than those which were created under the 1972 Act. In round terms, some 1,200 authorities were reduced to just over 400. The metropolitan district councils and London borough councils are as large as most of the most powerful pre-1974 authorities, the county boroughs, were; in other words, if we talk about what happened in the pre-1972–74 period in local government in metropolitan areas this is no guide to what may or may not happen post the operation of this Bill.

The other thing which I think has confused the Committee is the exact role of the districts in all this. The Government and the Secretary of State are not imposing the decision on the districts. It is for them with their own local knowledge—which the Government have not got and (let us face it) never would have—to make the decision for their own people.

Baroness Birk

I should first like to thank my noble friend Lord Shinwell for his very encouraging intervention, and also for the way in which he has pinpointed the Government's obduracy about this Bill. I am thinking now of its passage through the Commons. We have not yet got very far with it here. The signs so far are not very bright, but of course the Government could put all that right by showing much more flexibility and give. I hope that the very wise words of my very experienced noble friend Lord Shinwell may encourage the Government to be a little more flexible in their approach, particularly when these are really practical matters. We are not talking about what they may consider to be points of political principle.

The noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, drew attention to the Government amendment, Amendment No. 140A. That is no substitute for what I had put down in this amendment. The Government amendment only allows the collection of research and information if two-thirds of the boroughs agree; and again they want a lead council. They are using this quite amazing anachronistic method which runs through the whole Bill of hoping that they would get the boroughs together—which is very unlikely—and then making it contingent on the two-thirds, and then having a lead borough. This is all pie in the sky. No; it is no good the noble Lord shaking his head. He may be a very clever young man, but he had not had the experience of the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, who, on speaking on an amendment—

Lord Skelmersdale

If I may rise to that, I freely accept that particular charge.

Baroness Birk

I said he is a clever young man; I did not say he is not. I said he is a clever young man but not as experienced as the noble Viscount, Lord Esher. I do not want to upset him; and I did not say anything critical.

The noble Viscount, Lord Esher, on an amendment on which he was joined by the noble Baroness. Lady Stedman, and myself, made these points so well from his immense experience—being one of the most distinguished town planners in the country, if not the most distinguished—when he gave examples and spoke, quite frankly far more in sorrow than in anger, about how boroughs do not co-operate together and will not do so. He gave example after example of that. That is what the Government are relying on in their amendment which does not meet the same point at all. The noble Lord said they would take it away and consider it if they thought there was anything in it. I shall return to that in a moment.

They then said to my noble friend Lady Fisher of Rednal, who I felt made an excellent intervention on this particular amendment, that they should get it together. The whole point is that she was absolutely right when she said they had got it together on a county-wide basis. What the Government are doing is reversing that; the Government are undoing it all. She was right when she said it was got together. The noble Lord was quite wrong when he said, "Well, if they've got it together now…"

I now come to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway. I quite took his point. I quite understood that he was not supporting my particular amendment but he thought there was a point there. I am going to put it to the Govenrment that if there is a point which has been defined by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, (who is a noble friend of theirs; so it is not just an opposition view) then I think the least the Government can do is to take the amendment back and look at it again. I can quite understand the point about accepting the amendment as it is, but when somebody—again on their own side—with that experience and knowledge has raised this point, if the Government will not consider that, the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, would certainly win his bet—I wish he had made one—on that. Perhaps the noble Lord the Minister will consider that and let me know.

Lord Skelmersdale

Certainly my noble friend made a valuable contribution to this debate; but he said, as I understood him, that he did not consider this amendment to be the right approach. I am perfectly prepared to speak with him at a later stage, and indeed with the noble Baroness, as to what the right approach should be.

Baroness Birk

I am a little worried about the way the Minister put that. He is saying: "All right; the amendment is not the right amendment, the Government think that, and so does the noble Lord who commented on it". But if the Government want to try to do something with this Bill—a wretched Bill I would call it, a good Bill they would call it, but never mind the adjectives—I should have thought the reaction would have been immediately: "No; as we have explained, we do not accept that amendment, but if there is a point to be raised we will take it and look at it". I should have thought that they could do that rather less grudgingly than they have.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

May I seek to assist? This is not my point, but a point made by my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross. With respect, I think he is right. It is a decision whether something more is needed to provide the requisite measure of co-operation. Perhaps my noble friend the Minister will be prepared to say that he will look at that question (that is all) which is worrying the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, and, without commitment, will take it back. There are other stages in the Bill, and would that not be of assistance to the Committee?

Lord Elton

I think the picture is clearing. My noble friend Lord Colville of Culross drew your Lordships' attention to a point which we discussed at some length rather later on Tuesday on an amendment by my noble friend Lord Sandford which was about how one gets a proper corpus of opinion in an area so that it can be brought to bear upon all the planning decisions within it. I have already undertaken that we will consider that. IfI were to suggest to the noble Baroness that in our consideration we might come up with something like the statutory requirement of rather narrow confines which she put in her amendment, I should be misleading your Lordships and the Committee.

I am content to say that we will consider, and in fact are considering, the basic principle advanced by my noble friend Lord Sandford, as I said two days ago that we would. I hope the noble Baroness finds that helpful. It would not be right for me to try to curry the regard of the Opposition by leading them to expect that the answer would be exactly what they propose, but we are considering the general principle.

Lord Sandford

If, when the noble Baroness replies, she could tell the Committee what progress, if any, she has made since we had that debate in persuading her colleagues in the AMA to come to join us in this discussion, we would be making progress.

Baroness Birk

I will do that as well. We will all get together on the ADC. If I understood from what the Minister was saying that he will take it back and consider it, I am content about that. I accept that he is not accepting the amendment as it is, but if we can achieve some improvement, even if it is on a slightly varied point, that at least is making a little progress. On that basis I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 28 to 31 not moved.]

Baroness Birk had given notice of her intention to move Amendment No. 32:

Page 74, line 40, at beginning insert— ("( ) The Secretary of State shall produce strategic guidance for the whole of London or the metropolitan counties as the case may be and in so preparing this guidance he shall

  1. (i) consult with London borough councils, metropolitan district councils, the county councils adjoining Greater London or the metropolitan counties as appropriate and their constituent district councils, the local authority associations, the London and South East Regional planning Council, London Regional Transport or passenger transport authorities as appropriate, business and professional associations, local and voluntary organisations and others as he thinks fit; and
  2. (ii) hold an examination in public into that guidance.").

The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 32 is very similar to an amendment that will come before us shortly in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Molson—Amendment No. 34. They both seek to ensure a system of strategic guidance and they both seek to ensure that there will be wide consultation. I think that the amendment to be moved by the noble Lord is possibly more acceptable and is probably less clumsy than Amendment No. 32. Therefore, to save the time of the Committee I shall not say any more on Amendment No. 32 and I shall listen to what the noble Lord, Lord Molson, has to say when we reach his Amendment No. 34.

[Amendment No. 32 not moved.]

4.15 p.m.

Baroness Stedman moved Amendment No. 33: Page 75, line 6, after ("traffic") insert ("and shall be accompanied by an explanatory memorandum summarising the reasons which in the opinion of the local planning authority justify each and every policy and general proposal formulated in the plan, stating the relationship thereof to any strategic guidance given by the Secretary of State, expected development and other use of land in neighbouring areas where relevant and containing such other matters as may be prescribed; and the explanatory memorandum may contain such illustrative material as the local planning authority think appropriate;").

The noble Baroness said: I was wondering whether I could take advantage of the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, to see whether the Government were likely to "give" on this amendment, but I had better not risk my chances on it and deal with it as I had originally intended. It is a probing amendment to try to find out a little more about the Secretary of State's guidance. We believe that this amendment has the advantage of making the guidance that has to be given by the Secretary of State much more open to public scrutiny, because it means that if a local authority includes a policy in its unitary plan directly to meet the wishes of the Secretary of State then the source of that policy ought to be clearly identified in an explanatory memorandum. It means that policies resulting from commitments already made, like planning permissions granted, or policies that are contained within an adjoining authority's unitary plan, would also be explained in some detail. It brings into the open any conflict between the local planning authority and the Secretary of State or a conflict between two local planning authorities. It can also highlight instances where the local planning authority is adopting policies which are in conflict with the proposals which have come forward as a result of the structure plan.

I had assumed that the Government intended that Part I of this new style of unitary development plan would have the same or equivalent status to the structure plans that are currently prepared by the county planning authorities elsewhere in the country. That means that the other 38 county authorities in England and a further eight councils in Wales are all unaffected by this Bill, and they are required by Section 6A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 to prepare such an explanatory memorandum to accompany their structure plans, which inter alia justify each and every policy and general proposal formulated in the plan. Section 6A was not included in the original 1971 Act, but it was added recently in 1980 by an amendment to Schedule 14 to the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980—long remembered for as many long nights as we shall have on this Bill. The Government clearly thought it important, then, that we should have that explanatory memorandum to accompany the structure plans as recently as 1980. So it is difficult to understand why they have made no provision in this current Local Government Bill for a similar provision to apply to the new-style unitary development plans.

In this amendment we are seeking to standardise the position in the metropolitan areas affected by the Bill and the other county authorities elsewhere in the country which are preparing their structure plans. But there is one important addition which we have included in this amendment; that is, in justifying each and every proposal in Part I of the unitary development plan local authorities will need to state, as we say: the relationship thereof to any strategic guidance given by the Secretary of State". The Secretary of State's strategic guidance is going to assume a crucial importance in the planning in the metropolitan areas and the surrounding towns and countryside. It is the strategic framework within which the 33 London boroughs and the 36 metropolitan districts and boroughs will have to prepare their plans.

It is difficult enough to know how all these plans can add up to a metropolitan-wide strategic planning framework, but if the Government intend that these plans should add up eventually to a conurbation-wide framework, then this amendment, if accepted by the Government, would at the very least ensure that local authorities are required to justify each and every proposal in their plans in relation to the wider guidance from the Secretary of State. I beg to move.

Viscount Colville of Culross

I want to say only a word or two on this amendment. I think that it may raise an important issue and certainly one on which I believe the Committee would like to have some information from my noble friends on the Front Bench, not only for the purposes of considering whether this is practicable in the formulation that the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, has put forward but also in preparation for dealing with my noble friend Lord Molson's amendment, so that we may know whether the suggestion that he is making is practicable as an alternative—perhaps.

It really relates to the question of what the strategic guidance is going to be. If one or the other of my noble friends could give an indication of the type of thing that the Government have in mind by way of strategic guidance, then I think that those who are familiar with the way in which structure plans and Part I of the unitary development plan are normally handled under the procedures that have been built up since 1968 will know whether either of these two suggestions is apposite and practical.

I can very well imagine—and I think that my noble friend Lord Elton said something about this the other day—that the strategic guidance may take the form, at least in part, of circulars. If it does, then the circulars, I suppose, could take one of two forms. They could be circulars which are, as it were, nation-wide; they could apply to the whole of England and Wales, as circulars normally do; and the Welsh Office, of course, puts out a similar one for Wales. In that case it is less likely, I should have thought, that within the context of a particular unitary development Part I, one would wish to go into quite the detail that the noble Baroness has indicated and even less likely that one would want to make statutory provision for representations, public inquiries and so on.

If, on the other hand, the strategic guidance is going to be directed more towards the specific areas at the present moment constituted by the seven local authorities, the metropolitan counties, which are going to be abolished by this Bill (and will differ one from the other, for that reason) then it may well be that we ought to adopt a procedure which at the moment does not exist under the Town and Country Planning Acts; and one or other of these suggestions may be a helpful route on the basis of which we can move towards a satisfactory conclusion. I therefore hope that my noble friend will take an early opportunity of telling the Committee as much as he can about the form which the strategic guidance will take and how it will affect the various differing problems, as I apprehend them to be, of the different metropolitan areas.

Lord Elton

I am grateful to my noble friend for that opportunity. I shall leave the conduct of the main argument in my noble friend's capable hands but I think that this information is perhaps proper to introduce at this time so that your Lordships can discuss it properly. Strategic guidance is listed in paragraph 2(4) of Schedule 1 as one of the matters to which a local planning authority must have regard in formulating the general policies in Part I of its unitary development plan. I fear that there may have been some misunderstanding arising from misconceptions about the nature of this guidance.

It is not analogous to the regional plans prepared in the 1960s; it is not analogous to the Greater London development plan and it is not analogous to a structure plan for the area. In particular, I must emphasise that it is not intended to take the place of a structure plan; it is intended to do no more than assist the local planning authorities in preparing the individual, structural part—the Part I, in other words—of their UDPs. If I refer to unitary development plans in future as UDPs, your Lordships will know what I mean.

This means that the guidance will deal particularly with issues that cover more than one borough or one district, how they might be handled and how any conflicting views of neighbouring authorities might be resolved. That is an area of interest to the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher of Rednal. I must emphasise, nonetheless, that it will be couched in general terms. It will not look like the average structure plan or the Greater London development plan which noble Lords may have seen; it will certainly not contain the fine detail of policy which is usually contained in a structure plan. That will be for Part I of the UDP.

As my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross has already said, strategic guidance is not a new phenomenon. In fact, he has chosen exactly the right illustration for what we intend. Recent examples include the Secretary of State's letter on south-east regional guidance, which was issued in August 1980, and the letter of March 1984 on the implications of the M.25 for land use planning. Both these documents, which I can place in the Library if your Lordships wish, are short and general. Although the content will vary, this is very much how we shall expect the guidance for the UDPs to look.

I may say in conclusion that it will relate to each area or part of an area and many will deal with only a limited number of issues. Therefore, we are looking at something a good deal less complex and slender than anything that could be seen as a strategic plan. I hope that your Lordships and the noble Baroness, in considering how to handle them, will make sure that what they propose is not too elaborate; because it seems to me that where you want to be detailed, painstaking and elaborate is when you get to the local level, the top half of the UDP and the local plans, which of course ought to be tested in the local environment.

Baroness Birk

I wonder if I may support the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman. I think that she herself acknowledged that it is not a very weighty amendment, but it is a very useful one, as I see it. I think that really it is on a rather different point from that dealt with in the next amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Molson. It strikes me as having the advantage of making the Secretary of State's guidance more open to public scrutiny but it proposes that local authorities not only have regard to such guidance in the preparation of plans but also have to state in the explanatory memorandum how such guidance has influenced the formulation of policy.

I think that both would be acceptable but I find them really rather different. I do not think that they are on exactly the same point. They are both talking about guidance. I hope that the Minister will accept this minor but useful amendment which paves the way to our discussion on the next amendment.

Lord Sandford

I wonder whether, before the noble Baroness says what she is going to do about her amendment, I may add a word or two to supplement what my noble friend on the Front Bench has said about the state of regional planning at the moment. Any Member of the Committee who took advantage of what I said on Tuesday about papers from SERPLAN being available in the Library will be able to see from RPC 11 that what my noble friend Lord Elton has just said is indeed the case in respect of the kind of guidance which is currently being issued by the Secretary of State and to a large extent prepared for him by the standing conference. That is guidance which, as my noble friend has said, can be, as it were, fairly light, because it has been prepared with the assistance of the Greater London Council, which is the strategic planning authority for Greater London. The judgment to which the Committee has to come is whether it will be possible to continue with guidance of that character only when we are dealing with 32 London boroughs whose separate views of their particular segment of the whole greater London area have to be brought into coherence; and it is quite clear that the guidance is going to be of a different character and will have to be firm. It is the extent to which it is more firm and more specific that brings into question all the issues which are to be raised by the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Moslon. I thought it would be helpful if I added that comment.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

Perhaps I may make a very brief intervention which has nothing to do with planning law. Just imagine if the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, or my noble friend Lord Renton were in their places: they would be saying—would they not?—that it is wrong to put into a statute words such as this, words of guidance which have no legal enforceability. I merely draw that, with respect, to your Lordships' attention because as a rule it is generally unacceptable.

Lord Broxbourne

Further to the point made just now by my noble friend, can my noble friend the Minister give some indication in his reply of the provenance and status of the term "strategic guidance"? I do not recall it in planning or local government law and certainly a strategic authority is not a term of art in local government or planning law. If any of your Lordships from the inexhaustible quarry of your collective wisdom can show some precedent or place in which this term has been used in a statute I shall of course unhesitatingly accept it; but it would be interesting to know because it is unusual, to say the least, as my noble friend has just indicated, to incorporate into a statute novel words without any definition of their status or what they are supposed to mean.

Lord Somers

I am grateful to the noble Lord for having raised that question because it is something I have wondered about in relation to every statute that we seem to have passed in this House.

Lord Skelmersdale

I hope I shall be able to respond to that particular point raised by my noble friend Lord Broxbourne in a minute, but for a moment perhaps I may turn to the amendment proper. This amendment concerns the contents of the unitary development plan and seeks to add to the list set out in paragraph 2 of Schedule 1 a requirement for an explanatory memorandum in respect of Part 1 of the plan. There is no doubt that the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, has a point here and I am sure that the intention of her amendment is to ensure that the thinking behind the policies in Part I of the UDP can be understood by all those who might make use, or have cause to comment on, the plan—the general public, local planning officers, developers and the Secretary of State himself. There seems to be a particular concern that it should be made clear how the local planning authority's plan has interpreted the Secretary of State's strategic guidance. This term "strategic guidance" has not been used in statute before but, as my noble friend Lord Elton has said, there are some familiar examples.

I am not a lawyer and whether it needs to be structurally defined, if I may use that expression, I do not know, but I am perfectly willing to take advice on the point. It is desirable that the reasons behind the proposed policies should be understood. We had in mind to propose something further for the regulations; however, although I do not think that this amendment, as tabled, is the best way to achieve these ends, I am very ready to consider whether something should be included in the Bill.

The UDP system follows as closely as possible the model of the existing local plan system, and, where elements of both the structure and local plan system had to be consolidated, it was necessary to choose whichever precedent was the most appropriate. In the case of explanatory material, the choice was between the explanatory memorandum of the structure plan system and the reasoned justification and illustrative material of the local plan system. It did not and does not seem necessary to have both. This would be confusing to all concerned and would, of course, add extra work to the authorities' load. We therefore provided in the Bill that there should be a reasoned justification for both Part I and Part II of the UDP. It may well be that the best way forward is to build on this approach.

As I have said, paragraph 2(2)(b) (iii) requires Part II of a UDP to contain a reasoned justification of the policies in Part I, the intention being that it would perform the same function as an explanatory memorandum. Paragraph 2(2)(b) (iv) already enables the local planning authority to include as much illustrative or descriptive material as it wishes. We will of course be making regulations on the more detailed aspects of the UDP system; and they may well provide an opportunity to expand on the contents of the reasoned justification.

I sometimes think the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, speaks a different kind of English from that which I use, and, if so, the fault will be on my side. I hope, however, that I have made it crystal clear that we shall consider the point, and consider it properly and fully, and that, on that understanding, the noble Baroness Lady Stedman will feel able to withdraw this amendment.

Viscount Colville of Culross

Now that my noble friend has helped us in explaining to us what the strategic guidance is going to be, before the noble Baroness decides what to do with her amendment, I believe she now has a point which requires my noble friends on the Front Bench to give some further consideration to what is going to happen. As I understand it—and let us take an example from outside London for the moment—there will be or is likely to be, a document or letter, probably one which has not yet come into existence, which will relate, for the sake of argument, to the strategic guidance for Merseyside. I see the noble Lord, Lord Evans of Claughton, present and he would be very interested in any such document. Now, the various district councils on Merseyside will in due course set about preparing the Part Is of their unitary development plan and these will come forward, probably not all together but one by one in accordance with the speed at which the local planning authority happens to work. Some of them may have an easier task than others.

In those Part Is of the unitary development plans there will be reflected the strategic guidance given for Merseyside in so far as it relates to the borough in question. It cannot go very much further because the unitary development plan will only relate to that borough; but it will be reflected in the general policies and it will be reflected in the explanatory material that goes with the detailed policies that the Secretary of State will eventually decide whether or not to confirm.

What seems to me to be the problem is that the very first of these UDPs that comes forward, Part I, will incorporate, in a form that is available for the normal statutory processes, so much of the strategic guidance for, to continue with my example, Merseyside as is relevant to the first borough that brings it forward. Therefore, it will be possible for members of the public to object to Part I of that unitary development plan on the grounds that, among other things, they do not like some of the material in the strategic guidance; and it will be the first opportunity for them to do so.

It will of course be for the Secretary of State to decide whether to hold an examination in public, but, if he does, it seems to me that candidates for consideration at such an examination in public on this first occasion would undoubtedly include the issues which relate to parts of the strategic guidance to which objection is made. Now, what happens to all the other boroughs on Merseyside while that is going on, as they try to prepare their unitary development plans?—because, until a decision is taken on the first one, as to whether or not the strategic guidance as therein reflected is going to be upheld by the Secretary of State or whether he is going to modify it as a result of the objections, nobody else will be able to make any further progress at all and the entire operation of preparing the Part Is and unitary development plans for all the other district councils affected will grind to a halt.

I know that examinations in public need not take anything like as long as the old-style inquiries into development plans, which went on for months and months, if not for years and years. Nevertheless, I do think that the Government ought to try to explain to the Committee even if not today, at some later stage—because this is certainly a point which I suggest they ought to take into account—how this is going to work in practice. It must be right, that, in one form or another, this local strategic guidance (for that is what it is now going to be) is susceptible of some form of inquiry, of some form of examination in public, of some form of objection and, as a result, of some form of ratification or modification by the Secretary of State. I rather fear for the delays that will ensue if the scene that I have set is indeed a correct one.

Lord Skelmersdale

It seems that the Committee are at one on this point and I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Colville for, as it were, giving us guidance on the consideration of this matter. Of course we will consider very carefully what he has said in his speech and probably—although I cannot actually promise this—use it as the basis for our consideration of the point raised in the noble Baroness's amendment. I think it would be helpful to the Committee if I were to say that we have powers already to synchronise the preparation of plans, where necessary, by the simultaneous commencement order procedure which is in the Bill and concurrent local plan inquiries. If necessary, the Secretary of State may call in neighbouring Part Is of UDPs and hold an examination in public. I hope that that will also be helpful to the Committee.

Baroness Stedman

I am most grateful to the noble Lord and also to the other speakers who have intervened, and particularly the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross. I am also rather surprised and shaken that the Government Front Bench have said that they will take this back and look at it. They obviously think that we have a point in this amendment, which I thought was quite a modest one. I certainly do not claim to be a parliamentary draftsman, and perhaps strategic plans are not things which are normally included; but I should think the parliamentary draftsmen could probably get round that if it was felt necessary to have it in. In the light of the assurances given and the points which were raised by the noble Viscount, and because this was only intended to be a probing amendment, I would beg leave to withdraw it.

Lord Elton

The noble Baroness is giving us more and more cause for gratitude. If I may just put this on the record, I will read the remarks of my noble friend Lord Colville with very great care. It may be that he said something which made it look as though the strategic guidance did not precede the preparation of the UDP. I did not actually catch that, but it is clear that we are at one in our understanding that this comes first. I beg your Lordships' pardon. I am increasingly grateful—embarrassingly so—to the noble Baroness.

Baroness Stedman

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Molson moved Amendment No. 34:

Page 75, line 46, at end insert— (" ( ) When preparing any strategic guidance for an area the Secretary of State before finally determining its content shall take such steps as will in his opinion secure—

  1. (a) that adequate publicity is given in the area affected by the guidance to the matters which are proposed to be included within that guidance;
  2. (b) that persons who may be expected to desire an opportunity of making representations to the Secretary of State with respect to those matters are made aware that they are entitled to an opportunity of doing so;
  3. (c) that such persons are given an adequate opportunity of making such representations;
  4. (d) that persons whose representations are so made and are not withdrawn are afforded an opportunity of appearing before, and being heard by, a person appointed by the Secretary of State for the purpose; and
  5. 368
  6. (e) that if a local inquiry or other hearing is held, a like opportunity is also afforded to the local planning authority and such other persons as the Secretary of State thinks fit.").

The noble Lord said: We have had a good many rather complicated arguments about the whole of this matter, and I can only hope that in the amendment I am going to move it will be possible to get a somewhat clearer view than we have at the present time as to what is the intention of the Government and how it is going to be worked out. I am, however, greatly encouraged by the obvious sympathy with which Government Ministers are prepared to consider exactly how these matters are going to be evolved. The gist of my amendment is that before they commit themselves to guidance they should take reasonable precautions to enable all those who are going to be affected by the guidance, when it is issued, to express their views.

4.45 p.m.

In Tuesday's debate Ministers made it clear that the Secretary of State is eager to accept responsibility for co-ordinating the 69 unitary development plans which London boroughs and district councils will be obliged by this Bill to prepare. It is an immense task, involving fairly thorough familiarity with the various problems of various areas. This is not easily available to officials in Marsham Street, or even necessarily to officials in regional offices. They will, in accordance with the philosophy of this Bill, have to draft with understanding the guidance which is going to be issued under Schedule 1, paragraph 4. How far this will be general and how far it will be detailed we do not yet know: that was the penetrating point which was put, as I understood it, by my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross. The nature of it will obviously be of the utmost importance in considering how this Bill is going to work.

The strategic advice given will vary very much in various areas. That was made plain by my right honourable friend the Minister, speaking in Committee in the other place on 22nd January at col. 473 of Hansard, when he said: I expect the guidance issued for different areas to vary. That for London will be of a different character from that for, say, Tyne and Wear, where the scale and nature of the problems are different. Indeed, the guidance may be minimal or limited to only a few subjects".

I make no complaint about that; it is only sensible. However, it does illustrate the complexity of the task the Secretary of State is undertaking in co-ordinating 69 unitary development plans. It would surely be wise and prudent for him to seek local advice before he publishes his strategic guidance. That will obviously go far to conciliate the public and also the authorities representing them, and will avoid to a large extent the danger of appeals at a later stage. This will be particularly important when the problems relate to several districts, as Ministers have led us to believe they normally will. Here I quote again from the Minister, in the same column, because it slightly puzzles me. He said: The guidance will indicate the matters that the Secretary of State advises should be covered by the structural part of each unitary plan and his view, where he has one, of how matters might best be resolved where there are differences of view. It will be of particular relevance where issues affect more than one local authority.

That is the end of the quotation, and I interpose here to say that presumably in almost every case the guidance issued will be of a general nature, covering a considerable area and several districts. Here let me recall the opinion that I quoted on Tuesday of the Association of County Councils, which said: As county planning authorities, [we] are deeply concerned at the prospect of fragmentation of responsibility for strategic planning within the metropolitan areas". Therefore I naturally assume that, before issuing guidance, among those who are consulted will necessarily be the county councils in the adjoining shires.

On Tuesday, a Minister said that the amendment that I moved on behalf of my noble friends was a wrecking amendment. That was an accusation that I did, and do, repudiate. In any case, the Government cannot possibly say that about this amendment. This is accepting the policy that they are putting forward and trying to make sure that it will operate easily and not arouse undue difficulty as between one area and another. If they do not accept it, I imagine that they are likely to resort to an argument that I have very often heard used in both Houses in connection with a great many different subjects. They may well say that any wise Secretary of State would undertake these consultations and give opportunities for interested parties to make known their views in the ways indicated in my amendment.

The Government may then ask: why include it in the Bill? My reply is: why not include it in the Bill? When powers are being given by Parliament, even if, as my noble friend Lord Colville has pointed out, they are not entirely novel, it is surely proper for Parliament to indicate to the executive how it expects those restrictions that it is empowered to impose to be exercised. Therefore this is a friendly amendment. I am much encouraged by what has already dropped from noble friends of mine on the Front Bench. I admit that in these very complex matters I have not wholly taken in all the exact problems that are raised. Even my noble friend Lord Colville, who is such a master of the intricate law of planning, has indicated that he is not clear as to exactly what the Government have in mind. I understood him to say that he thought that there was such a considerable difference between issuing guidance on the broadest lines, and on what may be the more detailed lines which will be required under the provisions of this Bill, that that ought to be given further consideration.

I say that the guidance will have to be more detailed for this reason. If each district is to prepare a unitary development plan in two parts, the first setting out general principles and the second developing them in detail, then quite clearly it will be necessary for the Secretary of State to give far more detailed guidance to those 69 unitary authorities than has been the case in the past when there has been an intervening strategic authority—

Lord Elton

I wish to be helpful, and if my noble friend does not wish me to intervene I shall instantly yield. It is simply on this question of the 69 plans all being required at once. The provisions in the Bill allow for those plans which need to be considered together to be considered together. There are areas where there will be only three or four and there are others where the number will be larger. But I would not expect them to be 69. If my noble friend is thinking that they will all fall to be considered together, I merely wish to relieve his anxiety on that aspect. I shall reply to his other points later.

Lord Molson

I did not really mean that, and I wholly accept it. I know that the Bill provides that they may be dealt with at different times. I also know from discussions with my noble friend Lord Colville that there are some parts of the country where things are sufficiently well arranged and planned at the present time for there to be no urgent need about it. But it remains the fact that the whole structure of this Bill requires that there shall be 69 unitary development plans. Some of them will impinge upon each other and others will not. But to a greater or lesser extent it will be necessary for the Secretary of State to bring into his purview the range and effect of each one of those 69 unitary plans. Frequently he may say, "This does not impinge upon another one and can go ahead". But the fact remains that under the structure of this Bill, where the Secretary of State is taken as the strategic authority, he is ultimately responsible for giving guidance in the drafting of Part I of each one of the unitary plans to each one of the 69 authorities.

I hope that I shall have from the Government both an informative and a sympathetic reply. I am fortified in putting forward this amendment. I do so not simply on my own negligible knowledge of this difficult subject. It is supported by the Confederation of British Industry, the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, the Royal Town Planning Institute and the Council for the Protection of Rural England. As such, I think it is undoubtedly deserving of the careful attention, and, I trope, the sympathetic consideration, of Her Majesty's Government. I beg to move.

Lord Somers

I should like to give this amendment my wholehearted support. One of its most important features is the fact that, as the noble Lord has just said, it allows for individual parties to present their own opinion. We work in this country on what is known as the democratic principle, which of course means that the public shall have a chance of expressing their opinion. I must confess that on looking round at the machinations of Parliament I have sometimes been tempted to think that that means precisely nothing at all. But there it is. We have the principle and we must abide by it, and surely this amendment very much reinforces that in that interested parties will be able to object and also to give their advice, which is very valuable. I sincerely hope that the Government will accept it.

Lord Sandford

I wonder whether I may make just a brief comment here. The matter to which my noble friend's amendment is addressed is one to which the Standing Conference for London and South-East Regional Planning has already addressed its mind and on which it wrote back in October to the Minister of State for Local Government. By way of a preliminary, I want to endorse completely what my noble friend Lord Colville said: namely, that the judgment in this matter depends entirely on the kind of guidance which the Secretary of State will be issuing. But the opinion of the standing conference was as follows. Remember, my Lords, that the standing conference consists of the 12 Home Counties, each of which are structure planning authorities, the 32 London boroughs, which are the boroughs which will be charged with producing these unitary development plans, and the 98 districts in the Home Counties, whose job it is to give effect to strategic planning all over the Home Counties and in the London green belt on the basis of the structure plans produced for London and the Home Counties.

5 p.m.

Its opinion, which was endorsed by the members—that is to say, the chairmen of the planning committees concerned—is this: It has become clear that the principal effect of the proposals so far as planning is concerned would be to make the Secretary of State the strategic planning authority for Greater London but without the obligation to prepare an overall structure plan and subject it to formal and detailed scrutiny through an examination in public. This would be an outcome which the conference would deplore". Perhaps I may add a further point by way of comment. If the Secretary of State is to have the powers, the exercise of them should be subject to the same constraints as are imposed on other planning authorities. That is the whole object of my noble friend's amendment.

The final comment I wish to make is that it may well be the view of the Government that the whole process of the examination of structure plans in public has become too time-consuming, imposes too many delays and is altogether too elaborate. This may well be so, but in that case, if it has become so elaborate that the Secretary of State is not going to be bound by these requirements and restrictions, then they have to be lifted and lightened for all structure planning authorities all over the country. I hope that the Committee finds that helpful.

Viscount Colville of Culross

I have looked with very great interest at my noble friend's amendment, and, of course, chronologically speaking, when it comes to the preparation of a unitary development plan the stage about which he is talking precedes the stage that was the subject matter of the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, which we have just been discussing. It seems to me that there are a number of points which ought to be made about the amendment of my noble friend Lord Molson.

First, I would suggest to him and to the Committee that, unless we absolutely have to, we do not want to introduce a different procedure for the purposes of preparing what are structure and local plans but translated into metropolitan terms and thereby produce differences of a major kind between what would happen in the metropolitan areas and what would happen in the rest of the country. It seems unlikely that that is going to be a fruitful method of carrying forward these quasi-judicial and administrative procedures.

What my noble friend has really done is to put forward a proposition which falls into two halves. I am entirely with my noble friend as to paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of his amendment. Of course it would be half- witted for my right honourable friend the Secretary of State or any other Secretary of State, when he is preparing strategic guidance, not to give adequate publicity and take full account of representations made to him—indeed, not to give full opportunity for people to make representations and then take them into account.

So far so good. I should not have thought that there was any necessity to write that into the statute because I believe it would happen in any event and it always has done when strategic guidance has been given in the past. But of course my noble friend has a point when it comes to paragraphs (d) and (e), because if it is really intended that there shall be a procedure whereby a public local inquiry or a local hearing is to be held into aspects of the Secretary of State's strategic guidance, then we shall indeed need statutory provision for it because a whole lot of matters flow from the provisions providing for public inquiries.

I wonder whether my noble friend has in fact taken exactly the right line in relation to suggesting a local inquiry or hearing at this stage. There has been a good deal of dispute in recent years about planning inquiries which take into account very wide considerations of largish national subjects or largish local subjects requiring decisions to be made on them. When one tries to deal, for instance, with the entire energy policy in relation to coal as it affects an individual application for a coalfield development, one is embarking on very large areas which are not in my experience—if I may say so, it is considerable in this respect—easily susceptible of being handled at a local inquiry.

I think that what my noble friend Lord Molson is saying is that there should be, as it were, a preliminary public inquiry or an opportunity for a preliminary public inquiry into something which will be a pretty broad-brush matter of strategic guidance for one of the metropolitan areas. There will not be a great deal of fine detail in it; my noble friend Lord Elton has already made this plain. It will be guidance of a broad nature. I am not sure that material of this kind is readily susceptible of being dealt with at a local inquiry. Of course if there was never going to be any opportunity for it to be dealt with at a local inquiry, then I should probably think that my noble friend was right and we would have to make an exception in the present case where the strategic guidance is going to be of great influence in the preparation of part I. But we have already discussed that and we have established—at least I hope we have established—that the issue of strategic guidance will appear (or, if it does not, woe betide the local planning authority) in part I. It will be reflected in part I of the unitary development plan.

At that stage there is, under the law as it exists, and indeed under the Bill the opportunity for a public local inquiry or an examination in public which would enable people to object to and examine the extent to which the strategic guidance has influenced part I of the unitary development plan. Therefore I believe that it would be possible for these issues to be dealt with in the kind of way that my noble friend has in mind in paragraphs (d) and (e) of his amendment. If so, then one would be back on familiar territory. One would be dealing with the matter in the metropolitan areas in exactly the same way as one does everywhere else in the country, and my primary objection would not arise. I would suggest to him that this would be a preferable way of doing it. I leave this matter with one final thought—

Lord Molson

May I interrupt my noble friend before he reaches his final point? I do not claim that the drafting of my amendment is necessarily perfect. If it does impart too great rigidity to be a practical proposition, then I shall be most happy for the Government in due course at Report stage to produce something which is better drafted. I have no desire for there to be any complicated procedure. All I seek from them is an assurance that before the Secretary of State commits himself to guidance there shall be reasonable opportunity for authorities and persons affected to make representations.

Viscount Colville of Culross

I absolutely agree with my noble friend. What I think he is doing in this amendment is to add a complete extra stage. He is adding a third and preliminary opportunity to go into matters by way of public inquiry prior to the submission to the Secretary of State or consideration by the local planning authority of Part I of the unitary development plan. Therefore, there will be a three-stage planning process in the metropolitan areas as opposed to a two-stage one everywhere else. That is the point of principle which I am trying to point out.

Perhaps I may revert to the one point which I would ask my noble friends on the Front Bench to consider. If we are to make sense of this procedure, then, taking account of the possibility of having a joint presentation or a simultaneous presentation of the unitary development plans, I ask the Committee to look at paragraph 12 of this Schedule. I suggest to my noble friends on the Front Bench that what we probably want is a provision in the Bill—at the present moment I cannot see one—for a joint or simultaneous presentation of all the Part Is of the unitary development plan separate from the detailed material in Part II. If that were done, I can see that the sort of aims that the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, and my noble friend are after could very easily be comprehended within a single exercise for—and I revert to my original example—Merseyside as a whole. But the one thing you do not want to do at that stage is to go into all the details of Part II of the unitary plan.

I do not see at the moment—and I may be wrong—either in the text of the schedule or in the breadth of the regulations that may be made for dividing up the two halves, that one may have, as it were, the strategic exercise first and, depending upon the outcome of that, detailed implementation of it later. If it is there, I apologise, but I believe it is important that this flexibility should be available to those who try to work this Bill.

Baroness White

Before the noble Viscount sits down may I ask just exactly what he means by "all the Part I inquiries"? It is quite possible that one of what are at present the metropolitan districts which will be concerned with these matters could, for one reason or another, be non-co-operative, recalcitrant, have its own interests more closely at heart rather than that of the wider conurbation and not be willing to take part in such an exercise. What happens then? There will not have been the strategic consideration of the total conurbation which is concerning most of us.

Viscount Colville of Culross

What the noble Baroness says could theoretically arise, but if, say, one out of six or seven district councils in one of the metropolitan areas simply refuses to co-operate, there are, of course, default powers. I do not believe it will ever come to that. All I suggest at the moment is that there should be the flexibility built into this legislation to enable there to be a joint consideration of the Part Is. Whether it will happen or not, I do not know, but surely it would be a good idea to make sure that it could happen if, in due course, that seems to be the best way of dealing with it.

Baroness Birk

The noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, has been very explicit and articulate in what he has said about the amendment. I think that by the complexity of his own arguments he has illustrated the complexity of the Bill as well.

The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Molson, is very straightforward and is very similar—though there was no discussion between us about them—to Amendment No. 32, which I did not move because his amendment is so similar. There is one difference. My amendment states: hold an examination in public into that guidance whereas the noble Lord's amendment asks for a local inquiry and that, persons whose representations are so made … are afforded an opportunity of appearing before, and being heard by, a person appointed". I gather that this was the point to which the noble Viscount took exception.

I go back, very simply, to what we are trying to do and explain in a totally lay, kindergarten manner. First, the term "strategic guidance" is one which we all feel we know, but it has not yet been defined in the Bill. Perhaps one day we shall find a definition among the definitions at the back of the Bill, as we are told that this phrase has not occurred in legislation before. Obviously it is something that is needed because of what is being done in the Bill.

At the moment the metropolitan counties and the GLC do consult a wide range of authorities and bodies and the noble Lord, Lord Molson, cited many of those bodies as being unhappy about the Bill as it stands. They do that before drawing up proposals for their strategic land use plans. Given that the Secretary of State is now substituting himself for the county councils, the metropolitan counties and the GLC for this part of the strategic planning process, what we are trying to ensure is that he acts with the same care and consultation as he requires of the local planning authorities themselves.

5.15 p.m.

The amendment would ensure that the strategic guidance produced by the Secretary of State would reflect adequately the interests and views of all the relevant public and private organisations and bodies. There is nothing wrong with that. I should have thought that that was absolutely agreed, especially in our form of government. It would also increase the prospects of such bodies making a major contribution to implementing the county-wide strategies which, I should have thought, must have resulted in a chance of getting better planning rather than less good planning. It would also ensure that the examinations, either in public, as in the amendment standing in my name, or by means of a local inquiry, as proposed in the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Molson, would continue to be a central feature of strategic planning and thereby permit important public debate on the relevant issues.

I shall not go into all the organisations mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Molson, but will briefly quote a few sentences from a letter from the Council for the Preservation of Rural England which was sent to the Secretary of State for the Environment only last week. It expresses very great concern, lists all the other authorities which are very concerned about the Bill and deals specifically with the issue of strategic planning. The letter states that, the rôle of strategic guidance issued by the Secretary of State will take on unprecedented importance, such that, advised merely by a non-elected Commission (in London) and informal conferences of borough and district councils (chaired and serviced by Department of the Environment officials), the Secretary of State is himself to become the sole strategic planning authority for each one of our major cities as a whole. However, under the Bill as drafted, the role the Secretary of State and his officials will be expected to perform in this field will be of exceptional complexity. They will have to provide guidance at an adequate level of both detail and expertise, to secure the strategic supervision and integration of land use planning policies for each one of the new Unitary Development Plans of no fewer than 33 London boroughs and 36 district and borough councils in the other metropolitan areas. I do not want to re-open the point raised by the Minister with the noble Lord, Lord Molson; I merely quote from the letter.

To say that the Secretary of State is to become the sole strategic planning authority for each one of our major cities and to say that that requires some form of very widespread consultation when he is preparing strategic guidance is not making any criticism of any particular Secretary of State. It is saying that the situation that is being set up is of such overwhelming importance, responsibility and complexity that this type of amendment—and neither the noble Lord's amendment nor mine is of any revolutionary or drastic character—is absolutely necessary to try to make smoother the working of the Bill. It is for that reason that my noble friends and I support the noble Lord. He said that he wanted a positive response to his amendment and, as there is much feeling in the Committee for the amendment, I hope that he will press it.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

Before the noble Baroness sits down, may I ask whether she agrees that until we know where we stand—and I think it is right that we do not yet know where we stand—on joint and simultaneous presentations in Part I, it is terribly difficult to deal with the amendment on its merits because it would strike too early? Does the noble Baroness agree with me that what we have to know first is where we stand on the issue of joint and simultaneous presentation?

Lord Elton

Would it help if I told your Lordships where we stand on that?

Baroness Birk

May I first just give a brief answer in principle? It seems to me that this is a circular matter which runs through the Bill. The whole Bill is full of areas where we do not know how things stand. We have to take things as they are. I think that it would be quite wrong not to make some form of improvement while we are waiting for yet another problem area to come up, as we are slipping into these all the time.

Lord Elton

I am most grateful to the noble Baroness. I regard this whole thing as a tutorial exercise, specially arranged for my benefit. I know far more about planning now than I did even two hours ago.

On the specific point on which my noble friend so perceptively put his finger, I would say simply this. If your Lordships look at paragraph 7(1) in the schedule and then at paragraph 9(4) it will be seen that the Secretary of State can call in any particular number of Part Is that he wishes on their own. He can cause an examination in public to be held on those, and thereafter the local plans can be individually or collectively considered as he wishes. It seems to me that that—

Lord Blease

The noble Lord is turning away from us.

Lord Elton

I am sorry. I did not wish to exclude any of your Lordships from my words. I was saying that those two sub-paragraphs have the effect of enabling the Secretary of State to call in individual Part Is, together if necessary, and as many or as few as he wishes; to cause an examination in public to be held upon them; and thereafter, if he wishes, to continue with the proper procedures—in fact he is bound to do so—for the Part IIs. That at least I hope is now clear. I am much obliged to my noble friend Lord Colville for addressing the point and to my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway for making jolly certain that I answered it.

Baroness Stedman

It is at times like these that I wish that I was as well versed in planning law and procedure as the noble Lord, Lord Colville. I, too, am enjoying the tutorial exercise, and I hope that I am benefiting from it.

It seems to me that this is a necessary amendment. It requires the Secretary of State to publicise any strategic guidance he wishes and to hear any objections at a local planning inquiry. We do not yet know, though we are beginning to get little pieces of information about it, exactly what is to be the extent and the nature of the strategic guidance which the Secretary of State will issue. It is important that that guidance should be the subject of public consultation, since it may well cover matters that are at present determined through the structure plan process which are subject to public consent.

The unitary plan, as I understand it, is to take account of the strategic guidance that is issued for the area it covers. If that guidance has not been subject to public consultation, the examination in public of the plan will be devalued, as parts of it will be based on what has been a previously determined policy which the public have not had any opportunity to influence. While I accept that the amendment as it stands is no substitute for a properly constituted county-wide planning authority such as we were suggesting in our group of amendments on Tuesday—it will not be an authority which is in touch with local issues and providing its own strategic guidance—it will at least, if the Committee accepts it, preserve the opportunity for members of the public to participate in the formulation of strategic planning policies in their area and to comment on them if they wish to do so.

If the Secretary of State is to take on those new and rather complex responsibilities, he should accept that with them goes some duty, and his behaviour must be regulated in some form. The Secretary of State's guidance will cover such things as housing, green belts, minerals, waste disposal, transport, countryside conservation and all other such topics. There must be clear procedures laid down to ensure that the strategic guidance has taken account of the very wide range of interests involved. As the noble Lord, Lord Molson, and the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, have said, many very worthy professional organisations share our worries on this question of consultation.

I also think that perhaps the procedures of the Bill might put intolerable pressures on the officials at the Department of the Environment. The DoE directorates on regional planning and land use policy, I understand, have been reduced over the past three years from some 200 staff to only 133. I am worried about the operation of this part of the Bill. I can see the proposed arrangements presenting serious problems for forward planning and also problems for the bordering shire counties without a proper base on which to put their own structure and their own local plans.

I think that there may also be a constitutional issue for the Secretary of State when he comes to rule on planning appeals on which it is his strategic guidance that is contested by interests like the housebuilders, the industrialists or the conservationists in the area, and if they were not able to make representations to him before he prepared his strategic guidance.

Will the Minister accept that there is quite universal disquiet about the vague and somewhat imprecise form of the proposed guidance about which we know at present? Will it be regional; and how will the local authorities outside the metropolitan areas—the neighbouring shire counties—be required to have regard to the strategic guidance for the bordering counties? How much detail, and what subjects, will the guidance cover, and how much authority will it carry when it comes to appeals and inquiries?

Examinations in public are allowed for in the Bill at the point that the regional guidance becomes incorporated in Part I of the unitary development plans, but it is no longer possible at that stage to influence the guidance as a whole as it relates to the metropolitan area in its entirety. I believe that that proposed guidance is so important that we have to get it right however long it takes. Therefore, I support the amendment before us this afternoon.

Lord Hunt

I rise briefly from the same set of Benches in support of this amendment just to say that it must be clear from the amount of publicity given to it in the media that this is a very important issue. What has struck me about the publicity given to this amendment in the quality press is the disparate nature of the bodies which are in support of it. I shall not spell them all out. It is clear that what is missing in the Bill at the moment for the Secretary of State is the sources from which he shall draw his advice before issuing strategic guidance.

From the very beginning of the debate in Committee we have heard quite a lot about the importance of taking public opinion fully into account. It has really come across. It has certainly come across to me, and in a minor voice from me, that public opinion is in danger of being inadequately tapped and expressed. This amendment seeks to redress that serious omission from the Bill—the seeking of public opinion at grass roots level. I am talking about local, concerned opinion and also the wider national interest in regard to areas of scenic, scientific and recreational importance, such as the national parks and the AONBs, in which the metropolitan counties have an involvement, and particularly Greater Manchester.

The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Molson, I think uses the word "shall" and goes on to require the Secretary of State to do certain things. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, points out that in the Bill—and in the short time at my disposal I have not been able to look it up—the Secretary of State is enabled to consult appropriately before issuing his strategic planning guidance. There is a vast difference between what he should be required to do to make sure that concerned public opinion is taken fully into account and what he may or may not choose to do.

The title of a very telling article in the Guardian on 30th of April, just the other day was, "The Emperor of Everything". If the Secretary of State wishes to avoid being dubbed with that title, we should take into account what the noble Lord, Lord Molson, has suggested we should do at this stage of the Bill.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Sandford

Perhaps I may just comment. This matter needs to be looked at again. Like my noble friend Lord Colville, I must confess that in studying Schedule 1 I had not seen the possibility of examinations in public of Part I of unitary development plans conducted jointly. If the schedule is intended to work as my noble friend on the Front Bench says, then I would put it to him that paragraphs 3 and 7 need amendment to make it clear that Part I of the unitary development plans can be submitted to the Secretary of State before Part II is completed. That is because if there is going to be examination of Part I jointly in public, that must be conducted and completed before the metropolitan boroughs are asked to go to all the trouble of developing Part II.

Lord Elton

If the Committee find that I am taking a little longer or that I am slightly more confused than usual in my reply to this debate, I am sure they will be patient.

I think the principal issues are fairly simple. The effect of the amendment of my noble friend is to introduce a statutory process of publicity, consultation, objection and public local inquiry for the preparation of the strategic guidance very similar to that which is used at present for local plans and which will be used for the proposed unitary development plans. I think those are the models which my noble friend may have had in mind. I at once recognise the concern which my noble friend has brought to this Chamber as being not only his own but of many public bodies including some that have been mentioned this afternoon. They are authoritative and closely in touch with the system. It is right that the Committee should give due weight to them. I hope that what I say this afternoon will be of interest to them as well as to my noble friend.

I have already explained the nature of strategic guidance. I have offered to put examples in your Lordships' Library. I shall in any case now do that because I think it may still be in the minds of some members of the Committee that I am talking about elaborate, detailed, precise and technical documents. I am not. I think the best way to show what I am talking about is simply to deposit them in the Library so that those of your Lordships who have not seen such examples may do so. However, if the Committee will take that on trust for the moment, I have to say that these documents are not in our view those which ought to be given a statutory status, as would be the result of some of the amendments proposed.

Our purpose is to establish unitary planning authorities and hence the term "unitary development plan". That is what is appropriate to the planning needs of the areas in question. The strategic guidance should not be given a higher status than I have given it with that name. I am sure I can say to my noble friend Lord Broxbourne that the word "guidance" is at any rate familiar in statute. It is guidance. It will be brief. It will be selective. It is for each local authority to consider how far that guidance is relevant to its own situation. It is not intended to be a constraint or a straitjacket. The Secretary of State cannot enforce it directly. This is important: the only power the Secretary of State will have is in relation to the unitary development plans that will be made under it.

If I may now return to my noble friend's theme, his amendment would have a very considerable effect on the proposals for development planning in the Bill. I know he has already told me where the mine lies in the road down which I am travelling and on which I shall now step. I am going to tell him, and I shall tell him again in more detail in a moment, that there will be many opportunities for the public to become involved in the process of developing the strategic guidance and that they will not be statutory. He has said that that is something he has often heard in another place and obviously was increasingly less pleased by the more often he heard it. However, I wonder whether he will bear with me.

The effect of the amendment as proposed would make the Secretary of State for the Environment the structure planning authority for Greater London and the metropolitan counties and, in somebody's terms (I forget whose) would make him the "emperor of everything"—although he would be the emperor of everything with the benefit, I accept, of statutorily acquired public advice.

The guidance we propose is to be evolved in consultation with the local authorities and in London with the advice of the London Planning Commission. My noble friend Lord Sandford has said that the Committee's view of this will depend on the nature of the guidance. I have already covered that. Let me repeat that the guidance is not in any way intended to resemble a structure plan. It is therefore not suitable for handling in the way in which an elaborate and carefully built structure plan should be handled. The procedures proposed in the amendment would therefore not be appropriate.

I want to come to the matter in question. I have a fairly large amount of material which I could use but I will spare the Committee because the real need is for some form of public examination or inquiry in the process. I hope that my noble friend has taken it on board that there will be that process under the Bill in the local plan, the Part II stage. Thus at that end the public interest is very clearly implanted in the Bill.

However, many will wish to contribute towards developing the general guidance as my noble friend wishes them to be able to do. At the first stage we come to the officials going out to consider what the guidance should be in its initial form, and informal arrangements will be made for them. Before the London Planning Commission and the meetings and the metropolitan counties advise the Secretary of State on what guidance they consider is appropriate, they will have to gather essential information, consult interested parties, including the boroughs, and take soundings from those likely to have something useful to say. How they do that will be for them. However, it will not be for them alone because, once the Secretary of State has received his advice, that advice will be made public, comments will be invited and he will take into consideration those comments when he prepares the guidance in its final form. So it will come out first in draft, be subject to comment and then it will come out in final form.

It will be published in draft form and the discussions can be held to iron out the specific issues which are a cause of concern before it comes into its final form to local planning authorities. However, its nature will be very different from that of the documents of the kind which are subjected to examinations in public. That process is not appropriate to this stage; it is appropriate to the stage described by my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross.

I believe there may have been some doubts in the Committee's minds as to whether the examination in public could take place without the work on Part II continuing. However, if the Secretary of State calls in Part I,—and I regret that I cannot point my finger to the paragraph in the schedule but I shall write to my noble friend—the effect is that all work on Part II of a called-in Part I must stop. The Secretary of State will then obviously indicate the necessary changes to Part II when he comes to his conclusion. It is intended that the informal consultations should be as flexible as possible and cause as little delay as necessary to the main task of producing the UDPs.

We now come to the question that my noble friend is bound to ask me—and indeed I recall myself asking other Ministers, with great anticipation of effect, the same question. It is this. If you are going to do it anyway, why on earth do you not put it on the face of the Bill? When you render something a statutory duty, you do something much more than say, "This is a very good thing and you must do it". You open it to all sorts of objections. You make it justiciable. The estimate that we have is that it would delay the conclusion of the process by anything from a year to 18 months.

Given that we shall be going through the processes that I have described, given that those involve the public, and given that to incorporate my noble friend's proposals in statute would delay this process without, in my view, giving additional protection to the public, I must ask him whether he really feels that what he proposes doing is absolutely what he intends to achieve. Both of us want to achieve public reassurance. Both of us want to achieve workable plans that will knit together across the country. Both of us wish to assure the CPRE, the NFU and the other bodies referred to.

It seems to me that, with the help of my noble friends behind me, I have explained how reassurance is available. But, of course, I am in a conciliatory mood. If there is any doubt about the phrasing of the two paragraphs—one was paragraph 3 but I shall make sure which they are by reading Hansard—and re-drafting is needed to ensure that what I have said will happen, that I am happy to undertake. I hope that my noble friend will feel that we are engaged in the same work and that we will arrive at our shared ambition a year or 18 months earlier if we follow the path in the Bill.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

Before my noble friend makes up his mind about what he intends to do on this matter, I shall, of course, read carefully what my noble friend on the Front Bench has said about the chance for individuals and organisations to make comments on the strategic plan. However, I have to say to my noble friend that the Government must ensure that at the beginning of the planning process—the strategic plan, I think it is called—there must be consultation not just with individuals but also with organisations, particularly, in my view, needless to say, those responsible for land management. If this is not done, chaos will ensue. Despite what my noble friend and some other Members of the Committee have said about the fact that it will delay the process, I do not think that it will. I believe that it will speed things up. Otherwise, at the end of the day, when you come to the district plans, as I call them, you will get an enormous number of complaints from all over the place, without any logic.

I support, therefore, the amendment of my noble friend Lord Molson. It is supported, as your Lordships probably realise, by the National Farmers Union and, much more important, by the Countryside Commission. I am empowered to say that. I do not know what my noble friend will do about the amendment. I have, however, heard my noble friend on the Front Bench make very much less sympathetic noises at the start, in response to certain amendments that I have moved, only to find, in the end, that he has been very sympathetic. I would ask my noble friend at this stage (I emphasise that I am only saying "at this stage") to give my noble friend Lord Elton a chance to think about it a little longer—just a little longer.

Lord Molson

I find myself in a very great difficulty. There is such a strong feeling in support of the amendment. It has necessarily been somewhat confused by the complications. I should, however, like to put a plain and simple question to my noble friend the Minister. Do I understand him aright in that all he really objects to is the word "shall"—imposing a statutory obligation upon the Minister and making it a justiciable issue? I can understand the difficulty about that, and I sympathise. In return for my realising the difficulty imposed by the word "shall", can I have an assurance from my noble friend that, in a less formal manner, the Secretary of State will at an early stage, before issuing guidance, take all steps necessary—not a formal inquiry—for consulting all those likely to be affected by his guidance?

Lord Elton

My noble friend places me in a slight difficulty. As I understand it—I shall be told in a moment whether I am right or wrong—something is justiciable whether it is referred to under "shall" or under "may" in an Act of Parliament. I shall return to that matter, if I am able to do so, in a moment.

The other question that my noble friend asks is whether all the inquiries that I have described will take place before the guidance is published. Of course, that cannot take place before the draft guidance is published because no one would know what they were going to make representations upon. But when the draft guidance is published, it is the intention that the Secretary of State shall consider all the representations by individuals and recognised bodies—or perhaps I should put that the other way round: by recognised bodies and private individuals—that are brought forward. I have tried to explain that. However, what I cannot yield upon is the principle of making this a statutory process.

Lord Molson

I am much obliged. I accept the point about not making it a statutory process. In view of what I think is the complete assurance that there will be consultation before the guidance is issued as formal guidance, I shall not press the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 34A: Page 76, line 4, leave out ("in their opinion").

The noble Lord said: With the leave of the Committee, I intend to speak also to Amendments Nos. 34B, 34C, 34D, 34E and 34F.

Amendment No. 34B: Page 76, line 7, after ("to") insert ("or have previously notified the authority that they").

Amendment No. 34C: Page 82, line 4, leave out ("in their opinion").

Amendment No. 34D: Page 82, line 7, after ("to") insert ("or have previously notified the authority that they").

Amendment No. 34E: Page 84, line 2, after ("the") insert ("proposals for or").

Amendment No. 34F: Page 84, line 3, after ("they") insert ("have notified the local planning authority of their desire of an opportunity of making representations on matters proposed to be included in or").

As the Minister will appreciate, these amendments hang together. They are not dissimilar in parts from the amendments that we have just discussed. The alterations that we propose are concerned very much with the extent to which the public will have the opportunity of discussing these matters, not by the leave of the council or the authority but in some other way.

What the Committee is being invited to approve in the Bill, under the heading, "Publicity in connection with preparation of unitary development plan", on page 76, is this. Paragraph 3(1) states: When preparing a unitary development plan for their area and before finally determining its contents the local planning authority shall take such steps as will in their opinion secure—".

I am not meaning to be offensive when I say that we question whether it should be left to each council to decide the criteria which help it to form that opinion. According to a range of considerations—political, interest and experience—you will have a different application of the same principle. If the steps to be taken are to depend on the opinion of each local authority, that can be seen, on one hand, as very good local democracy; one is leaving to local people how they wish to treat their electors and interest groups. We are saying, in this series of amendments; that we would prefer to delete the words "in their opinion". The wording would then read: the local planning authority shall take such steps as will secure—". It will be left to each local authority to determine the steps and the manner in which it intends to proceed. We are anxious to make clear that it will not be left to the whim of each local authority as to whether it consults or what weight it attaches to the value of consultation. It should be much heavier than that.

We have tabled related amendments, and we want to ensure that those people who have indicated an interest in a field of activity will be informed of it, even though they may not see an advertisement in the paper or a notice in the local library. I have very much in mind preservation societies, such as the Enfield Preservation Society, the Civic Trust, manufacturers' associations, or federations of ratepayers. These are groups of people who, by some device, have registered with the local planning authority that they are interested in what will happen in this area. In Enfield there is a register of straightforward planning applications, and people are sent that list so that they can decide whether a particular street or the community is affected.

Therefore, in the best sense these amendments are not meant to be malevolent: they are very much benign. I am anxious to strengthen the view that it is the Minister's intention that local people shall not be denied an opportunity to make known their views. I beg to move.

Lord Elton

I hope that I have taken on board the points that the noble Lord has made about these amendments, which I accept are not intended to be malign or benign. I refer to Amendments Nos. 34A, 34B, 34C and 34D which concern the initial steps in the plan-making process, whereby local planning authorities, either individually or jointly if they so wish, put forward for public comment proposals from which they wish to make a unitary development plan.

The intention of the amendments would appear to be to remove a local planning authority's discretion as to the appropriate consultation arrangements. Paragraphs 3(1) and 12(2) of the schedule set out respectively the steps which a local planning authority, or two or more authorities jointly, in their opinion are required to take by way of publicising the proposed contents of their unitary development plan, and providing an opportunity for representations to be made by interested parties. These steps take place prior to the deposit of the plan. This will be the first time that the general public and others will see all the options for the plan—that is, at the moment of deposition. This is therefore the stage at which they discover whether or not they have an interest. They will not already have made their interest in the plan known because they will not know to what the plan relates.

However, the real point which I think is worrying the noble Lord is whether the provisions in paragraphs 3(1) and 12(2) are adequate in general. These provisions follow, almost word for word, those in the existing law designed to cover structure and local plans. They will be supplemented, as is the case now with structure and local plans, by regulations which will set out in more detail such matters as the length of the consultative period. We also intend to issue an explanatory memorandum similar to that on structure and local plans which accompanies Department of the Environment Circular 22/84. This will contain a step-by-step guide to the procedures, and will reinforce the message of the legislation that every person likely to be affected or to have an interest in the proposals should be given an opportunity to comment. I think that the noble Lord may well be reassured by what I have said.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

I was almost reassured until I heard the Minister's last few words when he said: should be given an opportunity". How do we ensure that the obligation that they should be given an opportunity to consult and to see the documents is carried into practice? I accept all that the Minister has said. However, I seek some assurance, although it need not necessarily be written on the face of the Bill, and I leave the point with the Minister. He began his remarks by saying that until people see the plan, they do not know whether or not they are affected.

Let us suppose that there is general discussion within a local authority that it will produce its structure plan. I imagine that the members of that authority believe that they have an obligation to their constituents and to the community. I have already mentioned preservation societies, civic trusts and many other groups. I should have thought that they would want to know what is going on. It may be that the areas of their town which they want to preserve are secure; they would certainly be secured by other legislation. I seek to ensure that somehow these groups will have access to that knowledge. The Minister may say that if there is a general advertisement telling people that they can see the plan they can do so, and that may be good enough. But what I have in mind may cost a few pounds, even a few hundred pounds, but it would ensure goodwill and better planning. We all know from experience that dates go by and that comments which ought to have been received have not been received; matters which ought to have been discussed are not included on agendas. We are concerned to ensure that the experience of local people is not forgotten by default. As I think the Minister is aware, I shall certainly not press this amendment to a vote; but perhaps he could reassure me that people should be given an opportunity to comment. How do we ensure that a council operates procedures which make it virtually impossible for people not to be advised?

Lord Elton

I think that I can help the noble Lord further. We are looking at paragraph 3 of Schedule 1. Under sub-paragraph (2) the local planning authority, having prepared a unitary development plan, have to send a copy of it to the Secretary of State before it is adopted. Under paragraph (3), with it must go a statement: of the steps which the authority have taken to comply with sub-paragraph (1) above", which contains the requirements about publicity, and so on, to which the noble Lord's amendment is directed. What is more, under paragraph 3(3)(b), it says that it shall be accompained by a statement: of the authority's consultations with, and their consideration of the views of, other persons". So the proposal goes to the Secretary of State and with it goes a statement of how the authority have sought to see that that is acceptable to the public.

Then under paragraph (4), if the Secretary of State is not satisfied that they have discharged this duty properly—in other words, that the purposes of sub-pragraph (1)(a) to (c) have not been adequately achieved by the steps taken, he may: within twenty-one days of the receipt of the statement, direct the authority not to take further steps for the adoption of the plan without taking such further action as he may specify in order better to achieve those purposes and satisfying him that they have done so". In other words, they have to show their work to the form-master, and before it goes in the book it must have a red tick on it!

Lord Graham of Edmonton

I think that I have been ticked off; I shall take it as "red"! If the Minister is satisfied that the steps which have been taken are unnecessary to a reasonable man, I would certainly accept that. I can appreciate that some councils will say that they have put an advertisement in the paper and that the leader of the council has announced at a council meeting that anyone who wishes to see the plan can do so. I wanted a little more meat on that, but I shall read carefully what the noble Lord has said, and, if need be write to him or return to the matter later. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 34B, 34C, 34D, 34E, and 34F not moved.]

6 p.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 35: Page 86, line 42, after ("him") insert ("following consultations by the Commission as appropriate with London borough councils, the county councils adjoining Greater London, district councils, the local authority associations, the London and South East Regional Planning Council, Government departments, London Regional Transport, business and professional associations, local and voluntary organisations and any other organisations or indi 'duals which the Secretary of State may think fit").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 35 relates to anxieties that have been expressed all round the Committee by a number of very important bodies about the weight that can be attached to the present consultative procedures. The purpose of this amendment is to highlight and make good the fact that the Bill, as it presently stands, would lead to greater centralisation of strategic planning powers in the hands of the Secretary of State and his appointed London Planning Commission with an inevitable loss of the present democratic input into the strategic planning process.

One of the major provisions of the Bill is the power which it gives to the Secretary of State to issue to the London borough councils strategic guidance which they must use as the basis for the preparation of their unitary development plans, a matter we have been discussing at length. This strategic guidance will be prepared by the Secretary of State following the provision of advice by his appointed London Planning Commission. The power which would be given to the Secretary of State is more specific than any presently available to him under the 1971 Town and Country Planning Act. Up to this point the Government have restricted themselves to national or regional guidance. As such, the strategic guidance and its preparation is a key element in the new planning process.

On the issue of public involvement, there is no provision in the Bill for such involvement in any stage of the preparation of this strategic guidance, as the London and South Eastern Regional Planning Conference noted in a letter to the DoE on 31st October last year. The strategic guidance will not reflect extensive public consultations as is the case with both the GLDP and its proposed alteration, and as will remain the case with shire county structure plans. The Association of London Borough Planning Officers—the professionals who are entitled to be heard and who would be responsible for implementing the new system—are extremely concerned about the procedures and working arrangements for maintaining effective strategic planning in London, and feels bound to draw attention to what it believes are serious deficiencies in the proposals as they currently exist.

It is clear from the statements made by the Minister for Local Government at the Committee stage in another place that the Government are not prepared, in the face of overwhelming independent professional criticism of their planning proposals, for changes to be made in this Bill. We are worried that the Minister seems to feel that in every respect he and his colleagues have got it absolutely right, despite the fact that there are professionals—who of course again one would assume, and say, are as unbiased as the professionals at Marsham Street—who can see great areas of concern. I beg to move.

Lord Elton

This amendment strikes at sub-paragraph 18(1) of the schedule. This sub-paragraph empowers the Secretary of State to set up the London Planning Commission. It refers to two aspects of the commission's work. The first is to assist the Secretary of State in preparing guidance for local planning authorities in Greater London". We have spent some time already discussing that guidance, but it is not to that that the amendment relates. The amendment relates to the second of the activities, which is giving the Secretary of State advice on other matters relating to the planning and development of Greater London". An example of such "other matters" might be a free-standing study of population, which might not immediately affect the Secretary of State's guidance at all. I find it odd that there might be a requirement to consult London Regional Transport, or indeed the National Savings Department, about that. The commission will be an independent advisory body and it will have no executive powers. The commission will be expected to formulate its advice on these matters in the regional context after consulting the borough councils and planning authorities for the areas adjoining London, and other relevant bodies including SERPLAN. Its advice is to be made public and available for discussion before the Secretary of State ever makes up his mind about his strategic guidance.

I have no doubt whatever that full and careful consultation will be vital. That will be very much in my right honourable friend's mind. He will ensure that it is in the mind of the commission. It will need to consult a lot of people and a lot of bodies of one sort or another. No doubt a list of possible consultees will be useful for it to have, but there are lists and lists, or rather there are lists and there are statutory lists. We have dealt with this distinction already this afternoon.

The amendment of the noble Lord seeks to establish a statutory list of people or bodies that the commission must, in respect of any and every matter on which it advises the Secretary of State, consult by law. If it does not consult them, its advice will be invalid in law. It cannot pick and choose, and neither can the Secretary of State. His choice will only be whether or not to add to the list by virtue of the last line and a half of the amendment. I again ask the noble Lord whether, under those circumstances, he has the right list.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

I listened with care to the Minister. I am really arguing contrary to one of my earlier amendments, where I felt that we ought to delete the words "in their opinion" because I wanted to tighten it up. In this amendment I have said, "as the commission thinks fit". In other words, I have allowed it to determine its importance, but I do not think the Minister would deny that it is important that—

Lord Elton

With respect—and I speak from memory because I have just dropped the Marshalled List—I think that the "as he thinks fit" relates only to "such other bodies". That is the qualifying thing. But he has a list in front of that, and that is a statutory list.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

Yes, and I would certainly say that the list, as the Minister calls it, of the bodies we are laying down statutorily shall be consulted before the plan is determined is a list of important bodies. I take what the Minister has said, that a list drawn up by any Minister, or anyone, is capable of either being too short or too long. We simply believe that in a matter of such importance, dealing with the wider strategic future of London and its environs, these are the people who are entitled to be consulted. I hear what the Minister has said. I shall take guidance and read the arguments; and it may be that I shall come back again at Report. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 36:

Page 86, line 44, at end insert— ("(1A) The London Planning Commission in giving its strategic advice to the Secretary of State shall give specific regard to all matters contained in the Greater London Development Plan and in the proposed amendments to the said plan, including the principal physical and economic characteristics of the Greater London area, the size, composition and distribution of population of that area, and the communications, transport system and traffic of the area.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment deals again with the London Planning Commission and the kind of advice that it needs in order to do its job. I quote: The London Planning Commission in giving its strategic advice to the Secretary of State shall give specific regard to all matters contained in the Greater London Development Plan and in the proposed amendments to the said plan, including the principal physical and economic characteristics of the Greater London area, the size, composition and distribution of population of that area, and the communications, transport system and traffic of the area". I should have thought that we would all agree that observations or comments on all those crucial elements in good planning and sound planning would be helpful. I suspect that the Minister will say that there are other ways in which these matters can be taken care of.

We are a bit concerned because we consider that for the big job—the Minister for jobs is in his place, and I am sure he pricked up his ears there—that the London Planning Commission has to take on, as we understand it, it has a woefully inadequate staff to do the kind of things that we believe are essential. If you have a small staff, or the Government keep the staff modest, then that restricts the role that the planning commission can play. If one hobbles or cripples the ability of a devoted staff to do what would be physically possible, then we argue in this amendment that one is weakening the strength, the value, and the merit of that planning body.

I should like to plead in aid the Conservative-controlled Harrow Borough Council. Last year, when it was talking about the London Planning Commission and its staff and resource potential, this is what it said: It is difficult to see a useful role for the Commission. Having only a small staff it will not be able to provide the information and depth of understanding of the complex issues involved". The coverage of matters in the Greater London Development Plan and its alterations are those which are considered essential to the effective and efficient planning of a city as complex and diverse as Greater London. There are many people in this House who, not only from their knowledge of planning in London but also from their universal experience and common sense, appreciate the great tasks that will fall to the London Planning Commission, which are certainly already covered by the GLC—issues not only on the economy, housing, shopping, transport and the environment, but also more innovative matters such as equality for women, people's disabilities, help for the elderly, policies for energy, pollution and ecology. All of these things need to be worried about by somebody for and on behalf of the 8 million people who make up Greater London. Our worry is that if, in fact, one simply rests on the argument that if one of the 33 London boroughs feels moved to find the money and create a small staff, which would be two or three people, they will be doing their job.

One of the worries we have is that this is an opportunity, if in fact the Minister will accept this amendment, or at least say something kind about it, for him come back again to give some hope to people outside who are not politically motivated but genuinely feel that one of the side products of the dissolution of the GLC could very well be that the quality of life in the future, which is guarded to some extent at a planning level, will be much impaired. I beg to move.

Lord Skelmersdale

I think the Committee might agree with me at this point that this is a mixture of a probing amendment asking, "What on earth is the LPC going to do?" and the actual words printed on the Marshalled List which comprise this amendment. To start with the latter, as the noble Lord, Lord Graham, has said, this amendment concerns the functions of the proposed London Planning Commission. It proposes that an entirely new and separate duty should be placed upon the LPC to give specific regard to all the matters contained in the Greater London Development Plan and to the proposed alterations to that plan. It also specifies a number of particular issues concerning the economics, population and transport of the area to which the LPC should have regard.

The trouble here is that, although this may be appropriate in one area, it may not necessarily be appropriate in another. What, for example, have Tower Hamlets and Kingston-upon-Thames in common?

Lord Graham of Edmonton

They are Londoners.

Lord Skelmersdale

They are Londoners indeed, and I accept that, but we were talking in planning terms rather than in "personal feelings" terms, if I may express it in such a way. This duty would be additional to the duty specified in paragraph 18(1) of the schedule, which is to assist the Secretary of State in preparing guidance for local planning authorities in Greater London in relation to their preparation of unitary development plans and to advise him on other matters relating to the planning and development of Greater London.

My noble friend Lord Elton has already explained how he would expect the proposed London Planning Commission to exercise its duties. I should not expect them to ignore the content of the Greater London Development Plan or the proposed alterations. Clearly also the matters to which this amendment specifically refers—economics, population and infrastructure—must be considered carefully among many others relevant to land use and planning in London.

It would, however, be inappropriate to introduce a specific requirement of this nature. The task of examining the GLDP will not be and should not be thought of as separate from, or additional to, the principal task of the commission as identified in the Bill. Nor should we attempt to dictate, in the manner suggested by this proposed amendment, the detail of the way in which the LPC should carry out its investigations.

I am sure we are all aware of the fact that the GLDP is out of date. This Bill, however, contains provision to carry forward into the future the preparation of land use and development plans for London in a far more satisfactory and appropriate manner. We are to have a new system firmly based upon local planning by the London boroughs. They are best equipped to produce new UDPs for their areas based upon the close knowledge and understanding they have of the needs of those areas. This knowledge will be up to date and will remain up to date in a way which cannot be said even of the GLC's proposed alterations, let alone the plan. It will also be more closely attuned to local circumstances and conditions. Without doubt it will be useful for them to look at the content of the GLDP.

A great deal of careful survey work has gone into the preparation of the proposed alterations. This should not be wasted but should be used where appropriate, not only by the LPC, who will wish to look at these documents as an integral part of their duty as specified in paragraph 18(1) of Schedule 1 but also by the London boroughs when preparing their own UDPs. I wish to make it quite clear that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State will expect the LPC and the authorities to take full account of relevant previous material.

As I said at the beginning, however, not all of the contents of these documents will be relevant in every case and I do not wish the Committee to insert into the Bill an amendment such as this which would dictate in detail the way in which the commission and the borough councils should carry out their work. I believe that the Commitee will agree that it would be preferable to leave such matters to their discretion. This will enable them to identify key features and focus upon these and allow them to progress more expeditiously. I therefore invite the noble Lord to withdraw this amendment.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

I do intend to withdraw the amendment, but it is very sad. Apparently Surrey and Suffolk are entitled to a strategic plan and a county-wide view but London is not. What London will have will be 33 authorities with discretion to take full account. The London Planning Commission will have the opportunity, if it wishes and if it has the staff, to make sure that these 33 London boroughs are taking full account of all that they should, but the Minister is not prepared to lay down the important matters that in my view ought to be looked at by somebody.

When I talk about the economy, it is not an idle threat. Every major city, whether it is metropolitan or not, has a department which is concerned with the economic regeneration of that city. We are talking about industry, housing and leisure. When we are talking about traffic and land development, of course there are disparate bits of London and there are Londoners who are quite happy simply to look after and be concerned with their own little bit, but they are all affected by the quality of life in an overall way.

I think that the Minister is storing up trouble, because what we are wanting, quite rightly, is to be specific. We want to say that this London Planning Commission has an obligation not merely to take into account generalities but to lay down certain things. We may have the list wrong, but we think that these are the important things for a strategic planning authority. We accept the London Planning Commission, if that is to be the vehicle, but we are simply trying to beef it up. Having lost the main argument for a strategic authority, we are saying, "If this is what we've got, let's make it work". That is what we are trying to do.

I wonder whether the Minister can tell us—and I will give the Box sufficient time to let us have the precise detail—what size of body we are talking about, what number of staff. If the Minister tells us that those details have not yet been worked out, it will be quite disgraceful. They must have some idea of the Vote—that is, the money. There must be some idea of what is in the minds of the Minister and his colleagues. I should like the Minister to tell us tonight what size of staff is envisaged. I do not want it to be compared with the GLC or with any other authority, because the comparison will then immediately launch into one being too big and this one being just right but, looking at the kind of things that I have said should be in mind, will the Minister tell us the size of staff which he considers is adequate in order to do it? After that, I shall certainly be happy to withdraw.

Lord Skelmersdale

The noble Lord, Lord Graham, referred to the comparison between the 32 London boroughs and Suffolk and Surrey, which were the two shire counties that he mentioned. He suggested that they would be disadvantaged because of size of area. I should tell him that the big stick for which he is looking, whether on this or on other amendments, is there, although I cannot lay to hand the reference in the Bill. The point is that the UDPs have to be compatible with each other, and, if not, the Secretary of State will call them in to make them so.

The noble Lord, Lord Graham, also asked about staff. I cannot say anything about specific numbers, which is what I think the noble Lord was asking me. However, I can say that the LPC will have a small staff, but that we would expect it to work with the boroughs, which will have a duty to obtain and keep under review matters affecting their area, as defined in Schedule 1, paragraph 1(1)(a).

I think that the noble Lord misunderstands the role of the LPC. It is a small body there for a particular reason; that is, to advise the Secretary of State how best he can carry out those matters in relation to planning that he seeks to do. It can do this in two ways: first, by being asked by the Secretary of State to advise him on a specific problem; and, secondly, by self-generation of its own volition. I hope that additional information will help the noble Lord.

Lord Sandford

Before the noble Lord decides what to do with his amendment, I should like to ask my noble friend on the Front Bench whether I am drawing the right inference from the fact that he has not answered the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Graham. That was: how many people are there on the London Planning Commission? It is perfectly respectable not to know the answer or not to have decided yet, because I hope that he and his collegues will take that decision when they have established the way in which the London boroughs will combine, cohere and collaborate, see how much they can do for themselves and, in the light of that, decide what needs to be done by the London Planning Commission. That will keep the London Planning Commission to the absolute minumum. Are those the correct inferences?

Lord Skelmersdale

Yes, absolutely; and the sooner the boroughs start to talk, not only to each other but to us, the sooner we shall be able to make definitive statements on these and on many other matters.

Baroness Seear

May I ask the Minister whether the items mentioned in the amendment are the subjects which the London Planning Commission will be dealing with? If they are, considering the range and the scope that is indicated here, how can a small staff possibly include the expertise necessary to give intelligent and useful advice to the Secretary of State, who will surely stand greatly in need of such advice?

Lord Skelmersdale

Again, as I was saying to my noble friend Lord Sandford just now, I am not in the position to say at this moment, nor is the Secretary of State himself, for what kind of advice they will be asked. I can add to the information I have given to the Committee that at the moment we expect the membership to be between 12 and 15 with a small staff which will be non-executive. Nor will it be a planning authority; it will be there purely to give advice.

Lord Plummer of St. Marylebone

The answers given by my noble friend the Minister indicate once again how little thought has gone into how this whole thing will work. At this stage they are unable to give an answer, and we are less than a year from the enactment of the Bill. I should also like to know from where and what sort of people in London the members of this London Planning Commission will be drawn. Will they go round London holding public meetings to find out what the people of London feel about these strategic plans which they intend to impose upon the boroughs? Will they consult the boroughs? The Minister chose a particularly bad example when he asked what Tower Hamlets and Kingston have in common. I think he will find that London's biggest route runs through both of them—the Thames.

Lord Skelmersdale

That occurred to me when I said it, but I wondered whether it was appropriate to make the comment then.

I do not think that my noble friend Lord Plummer is being quite fair, because the whole objective of the LPC is that it shall be set up in such a way and be so representative that it can provide answers. It is not for the LPC to consult the population in London, but for the London boroughs themselves to make their plans and to do their consultations and surveys so that when they reach the Secretary of State (should he decide that he wants an objective view on this; for example, whether a particular highway is proposed correctly) it will be the duty of the LPC to give him that advice.

Lord Plummer of St. Marylebone

This is exactly what we shall not get. The London boroughs will give a view about their own cabbage patches. They will not have regard for the rest of London; or if they do, they will only have regard for the immediately adjoining borough. What we want is a plan that considers London as a whole.

Lord Skelmersdale

I do not know whether my noble friend was in the Committee when I said that UDPs have to be compatible, and if they are not my right honourable friend the Secretary of State will call them in to ensure that they are.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

To ensure that the Minister seriously consults with somebody to see whether they are compatible, one needs to consult the kind of body that the Government have in mind in the London Planning Commission. The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, made a reasonable suggestion, if the premise was correct. He said that it was perhaps too early to know the weight of work which the LPC will have to do, and we shall have to wait to see how it develops. The record will show that the Minister has no idea how many staff are involved; he rests on the word "small", and we know it could be 50 or 200. In the context of the role 200 could be too small and 50 could be too big. The Minister has revealed that an idea has been thought of first, the abolition of the metropolitan counties and the GLC, and then a form of words has been used—words which are constantly shied away from when they need defending and firming, up.

The noble Lord, Lord Plummer, and the perceptive words of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, clearly indicate that the Government may get away with it during the passage of the Bill, but come 1st April 1986, when the reality dawns, I am very much afraid that there will be great gaps. If I had the confidence that some Members opposite have that when the trouble arises the Government will be willing to will the means, provide the staff and accept the role, I should be happy, but at this stage I am far from happy.

I shall read carefully what the Minister has said—I do not think it will make pleasant reading—but I give notice that I intend to come back again at a later stage on this matter. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 37: Page 88, line 4, leave out from ("shall") to the end of line 5 and insert ("obtain the agreement of all the local planning authorities in the area to which the structure plan relates.").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 37 is again in line with the first of the amendments I moved. I begin by quoting a friend of the Government—and the list gets shorter as time passes. A friend of the Government called the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry has tried to be helpful. In relation to the GLDP (and this applied to these matters) it said that it was, convinced that a single plan is necessary for an area as complex as London with various inter-locking functions … in order to provide for its development over the next decade".

6.30 p.m.

The case has been made out; but it has been resisted by the Government. What we are after is a London-wide co-ordinated and integrated strategic plan. I he Minister rests upon the 33 different parts being compatible with each other. "Compatible" as opposed to being "integrated" into one strategy, leaves an enormous area of conflict and doubt. And there will be horse-trading: "You allow ours to go through with a little bit of difficulty and we will not oppose yours". We believe that there is public and private sector support for a London-wide plan. We believe, in fact, that that is widespread not merely from the point of view of Labour authorities but also so far as Conservative authorities are concerned. In this amendment, we are asking the Government to write into the Bill the words at the end of line five on page 88 so that we have the statutory obligation to consult, to obtain the agreement, of all the local planning authorities in the area to which the structure plan relates.

The Government may very well say that to get the agreement of everybody concerned is not only difficult but may very well be impossible. We know the conflicts; but what we have in planning terms is deplorable not just to the professional but to their committees. There are Members of your Lordships' House with long experience of planning—and not just of London and its precepts—who are appalled at what the Government are going to allow to be produced. I think that they have negated their responsibility in this matter.

The purpose of this amendment, quite frankly, is simply to say that before an order under this paragraph, the Secretary of State shall consult and shall obtain the agreement of all the planning authorities in the area to which the structure plan relates. If the Minister says that that will take time, then I say that I would much rather get things right than get them soon or quickly. We are talking about the mistakes that we are looking at now, that were planned—or not planned—30 years ago and which we have to live with for the rest of our lives. I beg to move.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

I wonder whether the noble Lord will accept that the spirit of his idea could be better achieved if the wording was, "shall use best endeavours to obtain". "Shall obtain agreement" is a type of aim which is very difficult to achieve. It would be more usual—and with respect I suggest more civilised—to put it in that form.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

More realistic.

Lord Plummer of St. Marylebone

In order that I may say at least one word on behalf of the Bill before us, I think that I would support my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway in this. Having been involved in the Greater London Development Plan which I think ran inquiries for about three and a half years, I am aware that the difficulty of obtaining everybody's agreement to anything in regard to it was very great. I should have thought that the same trouble would prevail here. Somebody has to decide in the end. Therefore, I support the suggestion made by my noble friend.

Lord Skelmersdale

I am grateful to my noble friends but, in fact, my argument rest on more than that. We are not necessarily talking about revocation of structure plans as a whole. We could in certain circumstances be talking about revocation of parts of structure plans. As part of the transitional arrangements, paragraph 19 of the schedule provides that the Greater London Development Plan and the structure plans in force in the metropolitan counties at abolition shall continue in force in each of the boroughs or districts until a unitary development plan for the area becomes operative. The structure plan, in so far as it relates to the area of the UDP, will then be revoked automatically.

Paragraph 20, however, enables the Secretary of State, when he has called in an approved Part 1 of the UDP, or any part of Part 1 of the UDP, in advance of the remaining provisions of that plan, to make an order revoking all or part of the structure plan in force in the area of that UDP and to make any necessary consequential amendments to the remainder of the structure plan. Paragraph 20 also provides for consultation with the local planning authority for the area of the UDP.

There is nothing new in this approach. It is precedented in the Town and Country Planning Act 1971, as amended. Schedule 7 to that Act provides for the revocation of earlier development plans by order or automatically when a local plan becomes operative. It is clearly necessary to provide for the revocation of the structure plan when Part 1 of a UDP becomes operative. When the Secretary of State calls in Part 1 (or part of Part 1) this may become operative in advance of the remainder of the UDP. Revocation is thus essential to avoid conflict between the outdated policies in the structure plan and the more recently approved general structure policy of the UDP. Clearly, the Secretary of State would only wish to exercise this power of revocation to the extent necessary to avoid confusion. The provisions of consultation will enable the relevant local authority to be involved in the decision.

However, I can see no justification for providing that the Secretary of State should require the agreement of all authorities. Because structure plans cover such a large area, for example London, the interest of some of the other authorities will often be peripheral—and in parenthesis may I say to my noble friend that I shall not make my mistake about the Thames a second time this evening.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

It is water under the bridge.

Lord Skelmersdale

Yes, water under the bridge. Where the Secretary of State uses his similar powers under Schedule 7 of the 1971 Act, there is no such requirement for the consent of all authorities and there is no case for such a constraint here. I have explained that the Bill is very flexible in regard to the revocation of structure plans (or parts of those plans) and I hope that the Committee will agree that in this case at least the Bill has the correct approach.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

I have listened carefully to what the Minister had to say and also to the observations of noble Lords opposite. It is quite clear that there may be the possibility of looking at this afresh and coming up with a form of words which at least will satisfy us. But we have improved the Bill as it is at the moment. In those circumstances, I beg to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Skelmersdale moved Amendment No. 38: Page 88, line 25, leave out ("prepared") and insert ("adopted").

The noble Lord said: On behalf of my noble friend Lord Elton, I beg to move Amendment No. 38 and to speak also to Amendment No. 39. Amendment No. 39: Page 88, line 29, leave out ("prepared") and insert ("adopted").

These are both technical and drafting amendments. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Skelmersdale moved Amendment No. 39: [Printed above.]

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Skelmersdale moved Amendment No. 40: Page 89, line 9, after ("to") insert ("proposals made in respect of")

The noble Lord said: On behalf of my noble friend, I beg to move Amendment No. 40 and to speak to Amendment No. 41. Amendment No. 41: Page 89, line 12, leave out from ("purposes") to end of line 14 and insert ("in relation to the same or similar proposals made in respect of a local plan."). These, too, are technical and drafting amendments. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Skelmersdale moved amendment No. 41: [Printed above.]

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Stedman moved Amendment No. 42: [Printed 30/4/85; col. 175.]

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, I want to explain that the GLC submitted to the Secretary of State in October 1984 the proposed alterations to the Greater London Development Plan which itself had been approved way back in 1976. Those alterations had been in preparation since 1981 with agreement from the then Department of the Environment officials on the need for a review and an assurance that the necessary regulations, which had never been made for Greater London, would be available when necessary. That was in early 1983.

My understanding now is that that assurance was repudiated in the summer after the general election in terms suggesting that the GLC needed to be given further powers before it was entitled to review its plan. This view was rejected by the High Court in December 1983 and the Secretary of State was instructed to make such regulations forthwith. The Secretary of State then took power unto himself, under the paving Act, to exempt himself from the duty to consider the alterations when they were submitted. Paragraph 24(1) of Schedule 1 provides that any proposals for alteration to the Greater London Development Plan or to metropolitan counties' structure plans not approved by the Secretary of State before abolition will lapse on 1st April 1986 and will be treated as having been withdrawn. That means that the submitted alterations would no longer be a material consideration to be taken into account, with the other factors, in taking any planning decisions from borough councils up to the Department of the Environment inspectors or the Secretary of State himself.

Twenty years after being set up, and nine years after the approval of their general development plan, by no means all London boroughs have yet produced local plans covering the whole or most of their area. Under this Bill, burdened now by the Secretary of State's guidance and with the additional encumbrance of an improvised two-part structure for their local plans, there is no reason to suppose they would be any quicker in producing such plans in future. Thus, by the mid-1990s London would still have only a patchwork of half-completed local plans supported by the remains of a Greater London Development Plan which had been approved 20 years earlier. If the Schedule 1 provision is deleted, leaving the boroughs free to adopt, as part of their local plans, at least those parts of the present submitted alterations, passing this amendment would in no way force the Secretary of State to consider these alterations but simply to allow them to survive, as was done in 1965 in a similar situation.

Since I put this amendment down the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, has put down another amendment, half of which covers the one I put down. I have looked at what the noble Baroness has added to hers. I am in sympathy with it, and at the appropriate time I shall withdraw my amendment in favour of Amendment No. 43. I beg to move.

Lord Skelmersdale

Does the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, want to come in on this or to speak to her own amendment on its merits?

Baroness Birk

I shall speak to my amendment.

Lord Skelmersdale

Some alterations to structure plans have already been submitted to the Secretary of State; for example, those concerning the Greater London Development Plan, and, as we heard earlier this afternoon, that of the West Yorkshire County Council. In the case of the GLDP the Secretary of State has already announced that under his powers in Section 6(1) of the Local Government (Interim Provisions) Act 1984 he is deferring his consideration of the proposed alterations; and in the other case he has informed the county council that he is minded to do so—and quite rightly so, since there would not have been time between the dates of their submission and the date of abolition to subject the proposals both to the full process of an examination in public and to the subsequent issuing of modifications. Both the time and the money of my department and of the local planning authority would have been wasted. It seems to me to be a sensible decision not to have started down this particular road.

Let me quickly add, however, that that does not by any means mean that the Secretary of State has made a judgment on the value of the proposed alterations. Neither does the inclusion in the Bill of the provisions in sub-paragraph 24(1). We recognise that all the work done in preparing such proposals should not be consigned to the waste-bin; and it is possibly this aspect that is worrying the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman. There will undoubtedly he valuable up-to-date survey material available in them which could prove helpful to the Secretary of State's strategic guidance and to the boroughs and districts themselves when they come to prepare their unitary development plans.

I can therefore assure the Committee that the London Planning Commission and the metropolitan county planning conferences, and all the local planning authorities, will be expected to take on hoard whatever of the work already done by the abolished counties will be of value in preparing strategic guidance and unitary development plans. The noble Baroness can rest assured that, although I cannot accept her amendment, this work will not be lost. Where appropriate it will make a worthwhile contribution to getting the new system of unitary development plans off the ground. I hope that the noble Baroness is able to accept that statement.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

In view of the assurance given by my noble friend the Minister, and in view of what he has said—that these are not to be consigned to the waste-bin—would he be good enough at some time to have a look at the words "cease to have effect", which in law seem to render the whole thing null and void, contrary to the assurance that he has given to your Lordships' Committee? Would he take that on board and consider the wording?

Lord Skelmersdale

Yes, I most certainly shall, and I shall write to my noble friend.

Lord Plummer of Saint Marylebone

I was going to make the same point, but may I add to it? The noble Lord the Minister says that all this work that has been done is not going to be thrown away, but which staff is going to enable them to take on board all this information? As I understand it, staffs are disappearing and are being dispersed. Where are they going to get at the guts of the thing? Could the noble Lord the Minister give us some information on how the thing is going to work?

Lord Skelmersdale

Some of the guts will of course be provided by the boroughs and districts themselves, which already contribute input into the original, wider area plan; and the rest of the guts, it would seem to me, would be an appropriate role for the London Planning Commission and the regional conferences.

The Earl of Kinnoull

I support the Government on this issue, and I should like to know, following upon what my noble friend has said about staff being dispersed and how we are to get continuity on planning, what the timescale is likely to be before this new development plan is brought forward. I think that from the point of view of the planners who try to advise people, the fact that one already has a structure plan, approved 1976, is good to be getting on with. There is no harm in the fact that the draft structure plan which the GLC brought forward has not been adopted, and I believe that the fact that there was not time for modification is a reason for not adopting it.

I believe there is interest in planning. We are talking about a capital city, and it is vital that we get proper continuity. I hope my noble friend can give us an assurance on the timescale as well as on the most important point made by the noble Lord, Lord Plummer of Saint Marylebone, about staff and continuity.

Baroness Stedman

I accept that what the noble Lord the Minister said he said in good faith, but that does not put it into the Bill. We accept that he is repeating things in good faith, as to how he sees it will work. I would ask leave of the Committee to withdraw my amendment in favour of Amendment No. 43, because I think that that strengthens the position considerably.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Birk moved Amendment No. 43:

Page 89, line 16, leave out sub-paragraph (1) and insert— ("(1) Where before the abolition date any proposals for the alteration of a structure plan which have been prepared by the Greater London Council or a metropolitan county have not been approved by the Secretary of State, he shall after that date consider the proposals and give his decision thereon as if the proposals had been prepared and submitted as joint proposals by all the local planning authorities in Greater London or the metropolitan county, as the case may be.").

The noble Baroness said: The noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, has very succinctly and cogently described the situation as it is at the moment. It is absolutely true, as she has said, that in 1969 the Greater London Development Plan was submitted. It was approved in 1976. In 1981 the GLC began to update the plans. In 1984 they were submitted to the Secretary of State. From 1969 to 1976 the old plans were being worked on: in 1984 they were stopped entirely. This means that the need for a London-wide strategic plan supported by a majority of the London boroughs, the surrounding shire counties, the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry and virtually all professional and voluntary organisations, was being met. It was being worked on.

We are now going back to 1969; and since this Bill came along these plans have been completely thrown out. The Minister says that they have not been put in the waste-paper basket, but I will read what is in the Bill in Schedule 1, paragraph 24(1): Any proposals for the alteration, or for the repeal and replacement, of a structure plan which have been prepared by the Greater London Council or a metropolitan county council before the abolition date but have not been approved by the Secretary of State shall cease to have effect on that date and be treated as having been withdrawn by that council.".

These plans were all ready; they had been worked on, updated and so on, and suddenly there was a refusal by the Secretary of State, presumably when the Local Government (Interim Provisions) Bill went through and when this Bill we are now discussing was on the cards. So apart from discussing the merits of this Bill as compared with the old system, what is happening is that the terrific work that has gone on, which has had the admiration and support of many people in districts and organisations, is now absolutely going to waste.

What the amendment seeks to do is to maintain the existing and what is now, according to the department, the out-of-date plan in the transitionary period until the unitary development plan appears. The difference between my amendment and that of the noble Baroness is that whereas she takes out the subparagraph I go on to say: he shall after that date consider the proposals and give his decision thereon as if the proposals had been prepared and submitted as joint proposals by all the local planning authorities in Greater London or the metropolitan county as the case may be". During the debate on Second Reading, in reference to the committee of inquiry on the question of county and metropolitan authorities, the point was made again and again about the problems there were going to be during the transition period after the Bill had become law but before it was implemented and everything came to a stop.

Here we have these plans which are there and have been worked on, and which would be able to cover the transition period, being simply discarded. As was said during the previous debate on the noble Baroness's amendment, it is all very well for the Minister to say: "You do not need to worry; we are not going to do it in that way". That is not in the Bill. What is in the Bill is what I read out, and the only thing that is in the Bill which does not apply to the development plans is in Schedule 1, paragraph 24(3). That applies to local plans but not to the development plans. I think this is a very important amendment which, on purely practical grounds, should make itself acceptable to Members of the Committee. I beg to move.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

I have personally every sympathy with this amendment put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Birk; but of course she would be the first to realise, whereas I have only just come to realise it, that the root problem lies in the words, "cease to have effect". That is the source of the problem; and using those words in the statute, it is reasonable for the noble Baroness to table this amendment in the form in which she has. But my noble friend the Minister has just given a categoric assurance. He has undertaken to your Lordships' Committee, without qualification, to reconsider those words in view of the fact that he has told your Lordships that there is no question of these documents being consigned to the dustbin. In those circumstances, would it not perhaps be somewhat oppressive at this stage not to give my noble friend the Minister an opportunity to consider this position in accordance with his assurance? Let us hear what he says.

Lord Skelmersdale

I am glad to have a second bite at this particular cherry, which I must confess I find extremely complicated. I should make it clear that where possible the Secretary of State will consider and determine before 1st April 1986 all structure plan proposals which have been submitted to him and which can be processed in time. My noble friend Lord Campbell has commented twice on the drafting of this paragraph, and I am advised that the reference to "withdrawal" is a term taken from the 1971 Act in relation to structure plans. The purpose is to free the boroughs and the Secretary of State from an obligation to take those proposals into account as a material consideration when considering planning applications. This is only fair and just, when it is considered that these proposals have not been subjected to public examination. However, nothing in this prevents the boroughs and the LPCs from using these alterations when preparing guidance on the UDPs.

The reason for the approach adopted in paragraph 24 is to avoid the possibility of confusion as to the status of any plans which cannot be processed before 1st April. This amendment would require the Secretary of State to continue to consider these proposals as if they had been prepared and submitted as joint proposals by all the local planning authorities in Greater London or the metropolitan counties. This seems to me to be quite unreasonable, because abolition will already have taken place. Therefore it is surely preferable to spend what time and resources are available on considering new proposals brought forward by the new all-purpose planning authorities in the metropolitan areas themselves, rather than to continue to work on the policies of a defunct authority, which would have no one to defend them.

I have indicated earlier that this need not mean that the effort put into drawing up these proposals will be wasted. They will remain available and I would expect the boroughs and districts to make considerable use of them when preparing the part I policies of the new UDPs. But we must not lose sight of the fact that the successor authorities will be there to implement their own policies. If they then choose to promote policies for their area which were included in proposals submitted to the Secretary of State by the GLC or the metropolitan county they are perfectly free to do so. They may, however, not always entirely accept the structural policies of the earlier authority. Therefore it makes sense to give them the chance to bring forward their own policies under the new system. The provisions of paragraph 24 clear the ground and give them this opportunity.

While I am dealing with the question of how best to handle outstanding proposals at abolition, I should like just to mention the position of local plans, and I would refer in particular to an amendment which we shall be tabling at Report stage. The provisions of paragraph 24 I think make it quite clear that the Government are concerned that the best possible use should be made of existing plans which is exactly what the Committee is asking for. The particular difficulty in relation to some structure plan proposals has already been discussed in the case of local plans. These are to be carried forward directly into unitary development plans.

The Committee will have noted that the paragraph provides for outstanding local plan proposals made by the GLC or an MCC to be rescued where the Secretary of State has called them in for his consideration and approval. We have felt that perhaps this provision is not as clear as it might be, particularly in relation to the grounds on which such a proposal might be called in. Therefore we shall be tabling an amendment to clarify this at Report stage. I think this should make quite unequivocal our firm intention to save as much pre-abolition work as possible. However, to return to this amendment, I repeat that I see no case for imposing upon the new authorities further policies of the recently abolished authorities, over and above those in existing plans. Accordingly, I invite the Committee to reject this amendment.

7 p.m.

Baroness Birk

I did not quite hear what the noble Lord said. Did he say he intended to table an amendment that will in fact put this situation right? I may be wrong, but I understood him to say—he was reading from a brief—that it was possible to do this, that and the other. But what we want to see in the Bill, in the schedule, quite frankly is a reversal of what is there at the moment. It reads very clearly; there is nothing obtuse at all about the drafting; and unless this is what the noble Lord is offering, I do not think we can find it acceptable.

In addition, the Minister said that once abolition had taken place we must give a chance for the new plan. That is so. But what we are arguing about is exactly the point that once abolition has taken place the old plans which have been brought almost up to date should not be dispensed with. There will be enough trouble and chaos without doing that. This is so important that, unless the noble Lord can give the commitment that there will be this insertion in the Bill, I must find the position unacceptable.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

By leave, I cannot understand the problem. If the Secretary of State has under the amendment to give a decision on the old plan, it does not say that he has to approve it. He can approve it or reject it. It only says that he has to give a decision. If he gives a decision and rejects it,. fair enough. Then he starts off with a new one. What I cannot see—perhaps because I am rather stupid about it—is what the problem is.

Lord Skelmersdale

In answer to the noble Baroness, no, most certainly the proposed amendment which I have suggested the Government will put down for the Report stage is based on the situation as it is in the Bill, but will just clarify it. It will, in fact, be a technical and drafting amendment, but it will certainly not have the effect that the noble Baroness has requested.

Baroness Birk

In that case, I must test the opinion of the Committee and I hope that noble Lords will take the point that it really is something that should be in the Bill.

7.2 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 43) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 82; Not-Contents, 111.

Ardwick, L. Kagan, L.
Aylestone, L. Kaldor, L.
Banks, L. Kilmarnock, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Kirkhill, L.
Beswick, L. Lawrence, L.
Birk, B. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Blease, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Lockwood, B.
Broadbridge, L. Lovell-Davis, L.
Brockway, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Buckmaster, V. McNair, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Melchett, L.
Collison, L. Meston, L.
David, B. Mishcon, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. Monkswell, L.
Delacourt-Smith of Alteryn, B. Monson, L.
Mulley, L.
Denington, B. Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Diamond, L. Nicol, B.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Ogmore, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Oram, L.
Ennals, L. Phillips, B.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Falkender, B. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]
Falkland, V.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Rea, L.
Gallacher, L. Rochester, L.
Galpern, L. Sainsbury, L.
Gladwyn, L. Seear, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Serota, B.
Gregson, L. Stedman, B.
Grey, E. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Hampton, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L. [Teller.]
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Stone, L.
Howie of Troon, L. Strabolgi, L.
Hunt, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Irving of Dartford, L. Tordoff, L.
Jacobson, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Jacques, L. White, B.
Jeger, B. Wilson of Langside, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L. Winstanley, L.
John-Mackie, L.
Barber, L. Croft, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Davidson, V.
Beloff, L. Denham, L. [Teller.]
Belstead, L. Dilhorne, V.
Bessborough, E. Drumalbyn, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Dudley, E.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Eden of Winton, L.
Broxbourne, L. Ellenborough, L.
Caithness, E. Elles, B.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Elliot of Harwood, B.
Campbell of Croy, L. Elton, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Fairfax of Cameron, L.
Chelwood, L. Ferrier, L.
Clitheroe, L. Fraser of Kilmorack, L.
Coleraine, L. Gainford, L.
Colville of Culross, V. Gardner of Parkes, B.
Colwyn, L. Gibson-Watt, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. Glenarthur, L.
Cornwallis, L. Gowrie, E.
Cottesloe, L. Gray of Contin, L.
Cox, B. Halsbury, E.
Craigavon, V. Hardinge of Penhurst, L.
Craigmyle, L. Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Craigton, L. Harvington, L.
Henley, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Holderness, L. Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Home of the Hirsel, L.
Hood, V. Rankeillour, L.
Hornsby-Smith, B. Rawlinson of Ewell, L.
Hylton-Foster, B. Reigate, L.
Kaberry of Adel, L. Renton, L.
Killearn, L. Rodney, L.
Kinnoull, E. Romney, E.
Lane-Fox, B. Sandford, L.
Lauderdale, E. Savile, L.
Layton, L. Shannon, E.
Long, V. [Teller.] Sharples, B.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. Sherfield, L.
McAlpine of West Green, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Macleod of Borve, B. Somers, L.
Malmesbury, E. Southborough, L.
Marley, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Marshall of Leeds, L. Stodart of Leaston, L.
Massereene and Ferrard, V. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon, L.
Sudeley, L.
Merrivale, L. Swinfen, L.
Monk Bretton, L. Thomas of Swynnerton, L.
Montagu of Beaulieu, L. Trefgarne, L.
Mottistone, L. Trumpington, B.
Mowbray and Stourton, L. Tryon, L.
Munster, E. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L. Vivian, L.
Norfolk, D. Ward of Witley, V.
Nugent of Guildford, L. Whitelaw, V.
Onslow, E. Young, B.
Orkney, E. Young of Graffham, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Schedule 1, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Skelmersdale

In moving that the House do now resume, I think I should say that it has been agreed that we shall not return to this business until ten past eight. I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.