HL Deb 27 January 2004 vol 656 cc180-94

House again in Committee on Clause 27.

Clause 27 agreed to.

Clause 28 [Joint committees]:

Baroness Hanham moved Amendment No. 108DA: Page 16, line 27, after "council" insert ", or if an RPB makes a proposal in relation to any part of its region,

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 108DA, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 108DB, 109ZA, 109AA, 109AB and 109AC.

The amendments refer to Clauses 28 to 30 and the establishment of joint committees. Experience of joint committees on unitary authorities shows that there tends to be—or there can be—the problem of the lowest common denominator; that is, where there is one council that is not prepared to co-operate, the success of the scheme is ruined. That may be the case even though all the others are willing and enthusiastic to participate. Unfortunately, the Bill does nothing to solve that problem.

The Bill does not give the regional planning body a say in establishing the joint committee, even if there is majority agreement that such a committee would be the best way of developing the sub-regional spatial strategy that the RPB wants. The Bill would allow any such arrangements to be undermined by an individual local authority that did not wish to participate.

The amendments would allow a joint committee to be established on a proposal from the regional planning body. That would introduce a way of ensuring that the necessary sub-regional spatial strategies were delivered—something that the Bill fails to do. Given the importance of sub-regional strategies, particularly in the larger regions, this is a key series of amendments. I beg to move.

Baroness Hamwee

Amendments Nos. 108E, 108F and 109A to 109D in the group are ours, but they make a similar point. Most are consequential on the first amendment.

Amendment No. 108E arises from the question of whether what is contained in Clause 28(2) to (5) should be left to the local authorities. We have heard the Minister say several times that not everything can go into the Bill. Even if we have differences about what should be in the Bill rather than in regulations, that statement is incontrovertible. However, the provisions are extremely detailed.

I made the point on an amendment just before the break that, if local planning authorities were to come together to agree how to deal with such issues, they should be able to agree the procedures that follow from them and implement their agreement. I was puzzled by how much of the Bill was taken up by that sort of prescriptive detail, even if it is intended benignly to be helpful.

The other amendments are consequential, save for Amendment No. 109D, which would leave out Clause 30(7). Although that is not a consequential amendment, the point is that all of it ought to be a matter for the authorities concerned.

Lord Rooker

This is an important group of amendments, touching on the matters that we debated before the break in respect of joint committees. In this case, Clauses 28 to 30 deal with joint committees of county councils and district councils.

Amendments Nos. 108DA, 108DB, 109ZA, 109AA, 109AB and 109AC propose a role for regional planning bodies in relation to whether a joint committee should be established, the area and matters that it should cover, both from the start and if expanding its remit, and its dissolution. We are absolutely certain that regional planning bodies will have views on those issues. A regional planning body will be able to suggest to county and district councils that working as a joint committee under Clause 28 would be valuable. It would be free to suggest what area and matters such a committee might cover and that a joint committee, once set up, should be dissolved.

We would expect county and district councils to take very seriously any suggestions made by a regional planning body. We therefore do not believe that the Bill needs expressly to provide for the regional planning body to make proposals about those issues. It can do, and there is nothing to stop it from doing so. If the idea is that a proposal from a regional planning body should be mandatory, of course, we cannot agree to that. A joint committee would require close working relationships. That can only be based on a voluntary agreement and co-operation now in local government. If there is goodwill for a joint committee, that is fine, but forcing a joint committee between two authorities will not work. It may seem as though the regional planning board would be like the third party holding the ring, but we do not think that it is likely to speed up the process and lead to effective plan making.

Amendment No. 108E removes the provisions for the Secretary of State to constitute such a committee and apply appropriate legislation to it by order. The other amendments are consequential. The joint committees need to be constituted by order because county councils do not have the functions under Part 2 of the Bill that these committees will exercise. That is the reality of the matter. Such orders may apply to these joint committees legislation that applies to local authorities. That is obviously necessary because they are constituted by order rather than formed under Section 102 of the Local Government Act. They may otherwise not be bound by important local government legislation—for example, not to be covered by the local government ombudsman. Such orders may also make provision for any matters that the Secretary of State thinks are necessary to facilitate the workings of a joint committee; matters such as expenses and disqualification from membership of joint committees are bound to be dealt with. The Secretary of State's order-making role is only an enabling mechanism. Without it, joint county and district committees could not prepare local development documents. He will make or revoke such orders only at the request of the county and district councils concerned.

Amendment No. 109D would remove the Secretary of State's power to make regulations defining a corresponding document. I dealt with that matter in a previous group of amendments. That power is an important element of the provision to ensure that if a joint committee breaks down, it does not necessarily mean that the work has to be started again from scratch. It is important that authorities can carry on with documents that the joint committee was preparing without again having to go through all the steps taken previously. But this should be possible only when the remaining or individual authorities can own the documents. By a new definition, Clause 30 refers to such documents as corresponding documents.

Draft regulations provide that to qualify as a corresponding document, the policies and proposals contained in it must not relate to the authority that withdraws from the joint committee—a matter of common sense, but it needs to be stated—and that they must have substantially the same effect on the areas of the remaining or individual authorities as the original document. One would not want to waste the work. On the other hand, however, one would not want the documents to contain proposals on which work had not been done. Policies and proposals which can still work can be taken forward, but where the situation has substantially changed the previous work will not be relevant and the authority will have to begin again.

A fair point is whether a joint committee should be able unilaterally to extend its remit. I cannot be certain whether that question has been alluded to. This would be a practical solution to the situation where the constituent authorities to a joint committee agree that the committee arrangement works well and want to expand the remit of the committee to prepare other local development documents. We see no reason why they should be required to seek a new order from the Secretary of State to allow that. So there is a degree of flexibility. Obviously, if they are working well together they are hardly likely to need the Secretary of State's involvement.

I hope that I have given a fair explanation of the purposes of this part of the Bill and that the amendments will be withdrawn.

Baroness Hanham

It is clear that you cannot force together two unwilling partners. On the other hand, sometimes deals and negotiations are helpful. The amendment seeks to give the regional planning body a role in saying that there should be a joint committee; presumably people would listen to it. There was no intention of giving it a mandatory role; you could not possibly do that. I hear what the Minister says, that the regional planning body would be able to do so in any event. I shall read what he said in Hansard. For the time being, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 108DB to 109 not moved.]

Clause 28 agreed to.

Clause 29 [Joint committees: additional functions]:

[Amendments Nos. 109ZA to 109AB not moved.]

Clause 29 agreed to.

Clause 30 [Dissolution of joint committee]:

[Amendments Nos. 109AC to 109D not moved.]

Clause 30 agreed to.

Clause 31 agreed to.

Clause 32 [Urban development corporations]:

[Amendment No. 109DA not moved.]

Clause 32 agreed to.

Clause 33 agreed to.

Clause 34 [Annual monitoring report]:

Baroness Hanham had given notice of her intention to move Amendment No. 109DB: Page 19, line 14, at end insert— (c) the costs incurred by the local planning authority in complying with Part 2 of this Act.

The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 109DB seeks to remove from the list of areas that the Secretary of State may, by regulations, make provisions for monitoring the exercise by local planning authorities of their functions under Part 2. This will have the effect of cutting back the powers of the Secretary of State to constantly oversee all the work done by local planning authorities rather than creating a system whereby the Secretary of State is constantly monitoring powers.

I am sorry. If the Committee will forgive me, I shall not move the amendment. It makes no sense whatever.

[Amendment No. 109DB not moved.]

Clause 34 agreed to.

Clause 35 [Regulations]:

[Amendments Nos. 109E, 109Fand 109G not moved.]

Clause 35 agreed to.

Clause 36 [Interpretation]:

[Amendment No. 109H not moved.]

Clause 36 agreed to.

Clause 37 [Development plan]:

8.45 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 109J: Page 20, line 28, at end insert— ( ) For the purposes of any area in Greater London, the development plan prior to the publication by the Mayor of London of alterations of the spatial development strategy or a new spatial development strategy in accordance with section 341 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 (c. 29) (alteration or replacement) is the unitary development plan adopted in accordance with the principal Act.

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, I will speak also to Amendment No. 110A, which is grouped with Amendments Nos. 110, 110B, 111 and 111ZA. My reason for moving this amendment is more than just that it would be unpopular to bring the Committee back, not move a series of amendments and then go home.

Clause 37 deals with the development plan. It is an important provision. The amendments relate to London in particular. I have declared an interest in this connection already, but I have not previously declared that I am co-president, with the noble Lords, Lord Graham of Edmonton and Lord Jenkin of Roding, of the Association of London Government— the London boroughs' association.

The noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, asked me earlier today to pass on his apologies for missing this debate. The amendment in his name, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, will no doubt speak, would remove Clause 37(2) because of concerns that I suspect are the same as ours—we are simply approaching the matter differently—about the implications of introducing the provisions when the spatial development strategy is at its current stage. Removing subsection (2) would create a vacuum, so my drafting—which is rather cottage industry and homemade—proposes that the development plan, before alterations to the spatial development strategy have been made or a replacement published, is the unitary development plan adopted under the 1990 Act. Amendment No. 110A would have a similar effect.

I do not believe that this is in any way a party-political issue, but many London boroughs are concerned about the implications of introducing this provision at a relatively early date. I have not detected that they are opposed to the spatial development strategy becoming the development plan as the longer-term objective. However, there is concern about changing the status of what is not yet a finalised plan—although we had all hoped to see it in its final form by now—which would involve changing matters part way through its development process. For the purposes of this debate, I shall refer to it as the present draft. Although that may not technically be the right word, it has gone through almost the whole of its development by way of public consultation and examination, the inspectors' report and the response to that report, which is now with the Secretary of State. If I call it a draft in non-technical language, noble Lords will understand what I mean.

The present draft was produced under different legislation. I do not believe that it was intended that it would be the statutory plan to which Section 54A of the planning Act would apply. It is therefore not written in a style that makes clear what is or is not policy—some of these notes were made before the examination in public, but they are nevertheless quite fair. At that time the draft ran to 400 pages and it has been said that almost any part of it could be used to justify a development proposal. It does not accord with the draft guidance for regional spatial strategies.

There is concern that the draft could be used to justify minor proposals and that as a result the Mayor could become involved in detailed debates on minor issues. The Green Paper that preceded the Bill specifically said that there would be no change to the role of the Mayor of London, and public consultation on the draft took place on the basis that it was not a statutory plan. I am also told that comments from boroughs would have been different if they had seen further ahead and known what was coming. They are also concerned that consideration of planning applications will become more complex and costly.

Obviously, that is not what the Government want; it is diametrically opposed to what the Government want to see. Development control officers would need to consider the contents of the spatial development strategy, the London plan and the relevant unitary development plan before they made a recommendation, thereby adding to the workload. In other words, there will be cost, confusion and delay.

I believe that the Association of London Government has commented to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister on the draft of PPS12. What it said about that draft is relevant to the primary legislation as well as to the guidance and regulations. The association made the point that consultees at the draft stages of the London plan did not regard it as part of the development plan and that it contained significant and detailed policies. As I said, I am making these points because they are as relevant to the primary legislation as to the planning policy statement.

The association is also urging that the final version of PPS12 should make it clear that "general conformity" should be strategic and not detailed; that justified local variation from strategic policies is entirely appropriate; that by having general conformity, there is an acceptance that there will be areas of non-conformity; and that where a decision or recommendation on general conformity issues has been made at a development plan document inquiry, it should be binding on the Mayor and on the spatial development strategy. The association also refers to the need for a dispute procedure in case of problems.

What this boils down to, I think, is that we have got out of synch on all of this. As a Member of the London Assembly considering the Mayor's representations to the boroughs on their unitary development plans—of which these are modified examples—I have seen how the Government should be cheered by the way in which the boroughs have approached the next stages of their unitary development plans as if the Bill were in force. They have been taking the sort of view that the Government are encouraging. It certainly makes those documents more accessible, and that is cheering. However, if the borough's planning documents and the Mayor's documents do not properly mesh, there will be a lot of scope for confusion and difficulty. There will also be serious implications for individual applicants.

My attempt at a solution is to suggest that application of the provision be postponed. The amendment to which the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, will speak proposes removing the provision entirely. I beg to move.

Baroness Hanham

This is the matter to which I promised to return when we were considering Clause 23 and I put the cart before the horse.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said, the Bill proposes a change to the status of the Mayor of London's spatial development strategy, which is known as the London plan, so that the situation in London will be consistent with the Government's proposals for England. Under the Bill, the London plan will have to be a formal part of each borough's unitary development plan, whereas previously the unitary development plan would have had only to be in general conformity with the London plan. As the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee said, that is the Government's proposal despite their announcing in the 2001 planning Green Paper that they do not propose any change to the Mayor's role in the arrangements for planning in London.

We believe that it is wrong for the Government to argue that the change in London is necessary for the sake of consistency. The situation in London is unique, and that makes it unsuited to the planning system that the Government are establishing for the rest of England. There will be no regional spatial strategy in London, which will instead have the very much more detailed draft London plan prepared by the Mayor. It is a highly prescriptive document which will inevitably conflict at times with the unitary development plan or the local development plan when that exists.

We have been told by all the London boroughs that when a conflict does arise between boroughs' plans and the London plan, the more recent document will have greater weight. That will mean that a carefully considered unitary development plan which is the result of months—the Minister may say years—of consultation with local communities can be overridden by the London plan. Moreover, there is every chance that processing planning applications will become more complicated and take more time—the very reverse of the Government's objectives. Each planning application will have to be considered in relation to both the local development plan and the relevant policies in the London plan. Any appeal procedure as the result of refusing a planning application will also be more complex. The appeal inspector will have to weigh up the relative weight of policies in both the local development plan and the London plan.

These amendments are intended to retain the present relationship between the spatial development strategy and the unitary development plan in London boroughs. Under present arrangements, unitary development plans have to be in general conformity with the Mayor's spatial strategy. Section 344 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 amends the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to reflect the setting up of the revised administrative arrangements for Greater London. Section 344(2) states that part of the unitary development plans should be, in general conformity with the spatial development strategy for the time being in force". It also states that Part II of unitary development plans should be, in general conformity with Part I … and, in the case of a London borough council, with the spatial development strategy". Clause 23(1)(b) of the Bill—this is where we go backwards; we have dwelt on this briefly—states: The local development documents must be in general conformity with … the spatial development strategy (if the local planning authority are a London borough)". By deleting Clause 32(2)(a) we return to the situation approved by the Greater London Authority Act 1999 and are thus in accordance with Clause 23(1)(b) of the Bill.

Amendment No. 111ZA takes us away from London, but means that a regional spatial strategy will not be part of a development. Together with the other amendments, it goes beyond London and would mean that both the regional spatial strategy and the spatial development strategy do not form part of a development plan. Consequently, only one subsection would be needed, if that was agreed, rather than both subsections (2) and (3).

Lord Rooker

I shall do my best to satisfy the noble Baroness over the points she raised. Amendment No. 109J would amend Clause 37 to provide expressly that the definition of the development plan in London was the borough's unitary development plans until such time as the Mayor's spatial development strategy is published. The amendment is unnecessary for two reasons: we are confident that the final version of the spatial development strategy will be published before commencement of the Bill—or Act; even it were not, the effect would be the same as the amendment envisages—that the London boroughs' unitary development plans would be the development plan for London until the final version of the spatial development strategy was published.

Amendment No. 110 would amend Clause 37 so that the Mayor of London's spatial development strategy did not become part of the development plan. Amendment No. 111ZA does the same for regional spatial strategies. Making regional plans across the country a part of the development plan is an important part of strengthening the strategic planning role. It is just as applicable to the Mayor's strategy as it is to a regional strategy.

If we want effective regional planning then it must have sufficient status for both delivery through local planning and providing a regional context for major development. The current status of the regional planning guidance means, for example, that an out-of-date but statutory structure plan, inconsistent with up-to-date regional planning guidance could, depending on the circumstances, carry more weight in relation to local plans and planning applications. That is a point that I made on day one of the Bill at Second Reading.

We are committed to a plan-led system—a system with fewer plans, but where those plans really bite. We have to be up to date and reduce ambiguity and uncertainty. Revisions of regional spatial strategies will be subject to extensive involvement, consultation and a public examination, where the Secretary of State decides that that is appropriate. It would be quite wrong to diminish the status of a document that had been through such a rigorous process by not making it part of the development plan. By making the spatial development strategy part of the development plan we are not fundamentally altering the existing relationship between it and unitary development plans.

Under the current arrangements, the spatial development strategy can still be a "material consideration" when a London borough considers a planning application. The Mayor has powers to direct the refusal of a planning application of potential strategic importance and the policies in the strategy are likely to be a significant factor in that consideration.

Amendment No. 110A complements Amendment No. 109J. It simply amends Clause 37 to clarify that only after the publication of the spatial development strategy will that form part of the development plan in Greater London. Amendment No. 11OB is consequential. I have already explained why Amendment No. 109J is unnecessary; if it is not needed, these amendments do not stand on their own.

I shall comment on some of the points that were raised. Originally, we were told that consultees did not expect the spatial development strategy to be part of the development plan, so different comments were made. The relationship has not changed much, the procedures for spatial development strategy are eventually the same as those for regional spatial strategy, including examination in public, and the Bill was published in December 2002.

By making the spatial development strategy part of the development plan, we are not fundamentally altering the relationship between it and the unitary development plan. Under the current arrangements, the strategy can still be a material consideration when the borough considers a planning application. That should not be a problem. It is not the case that the Mayor's strategy will, under the Bill, replace part one of the unitary development plans. The scope and content of the strategy is not affected by the Bill. New local development frameworks for London will be every bit as strategic as part one of the old unitary development plans. In fact, we want the strategic element of a local development framework to be more effective than the "part ones" are at present.

Nor has the Mayor's spatial development strategy been drafted in a way that makes it incompatible with its role as part of the development plan. The Mayor's draft strategy contains strategic development control policies relevant to determining the acceptability of development proposals, such as policies that set out criteria that the boroughs should have regard to in assessing planning applications, which will further help the strategy set out in the spatial development strategy.

The final amendment, to which I have not referred—Amendment No. 111—is consequential on Amendment No. 110. It ensures that the development plan documents for each London borough are not also excluded from being part of the development plan. Again, it has no meaning separate from Amendment No. 110, and I hope that I have covered that already.

I know that we are dealing with a complex area on which there was concern, but I hope that I have addressed the issues adequately. If I have not, I have no doubt that I shall find out on Report.

Baroness Hamwee

I am not sure that my amendment has had the effect that I intended. To say that the final version of the spatial development strategy will be published before commencement of the Act does not answer the points that I was trying to make. My amendment talked in terms not of the publication of the spatial development strategy, but of publications of alterations to it or a new spatial development strategy.

I may have picked the wrong terminology, but I was trying to postpone the application of this part of the Bill to the point where the spatial development strategy had gone through its first round and had its examination in public. The London boroughs were making their comments at the time that all that was happening. They were taking part in that process as well, but were still making such comments. I sought to postpone the application until we got into round two of the spatial development strategy.

It would obviously be appropriate for those who feel particularly concerned about how the provisions will bite to have the opportunity to read the Minister's comments. They seemed quite contradictory to the observations made to us on these Benches, and to the Conservatives, as part of the process of discussion with the boroughs. The Minister is looking at something; I do not know whether he wants to say something before I withdraw the amendment.

Lord Rooker

No, I do not propose to say anything else, although I have no doubt that I will on Report.

Baroness Hamwee

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 110 to 111ZA not moved.]

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 111ZB: Page 20, line 39, at end insert "and until such local development plan is adopted or approved, the development plan for that area shall be the unitary development plan, structure plan or local plan (as defined in the principal Act) last adopted or approved for the area

The noble Baroness said: This amendment provides that until the local development plan referred to is adopted or approved, the development plan shall be the UDP, structure plan or local plan last adopted or approved. This is in order to ensure that while a local development plan is being prepared, there is a development plan for the purposes of development control.

In the provisions relating to Wales, there is; a fall back provision to cover any lacuna, but in England there are transitional—I beg your Lordships' pardon, I am getting this the wrong way round. There is an omission in the Bill as it applies to Wales, in that there is no fall back development plan. There are detailed transitional provisions for England, as I discovered when I was looking for how a county structure plan was dealt with. It took me two hours to find it. This amendment is aimed at covering the interim position in Wales. I beg to move.

Lord Rooker

The noble Baroness nearly got me there. I thought, "Hang on a minute, all this is about Wales". That is what Clause 37(4) is about. She made the point in the end that this is adding on for Wales something for England, rather than the other way around, as she started off. This amendment adds to Clause 37, so that set out in existing development plans for Wales will remain the development plans until such time as a new local development plan is adopted or approved.

The proposed amendment would introduce provisions relating to the transition from the present system of development plans in Wales to the new local development plans set out in Part 6, which I shall come to at another time.

While the need for such transitional provisions is not in dispute, the best way to deal with them in relation to Wales is not by including them in the Bill, but by leaving them to be dealt with by secondary legislation made by the National Assembly for Wales. The Assembly's power to make such legislation arises under Clause 117(3), which empowers the Assembly to make provision by order in relation to the coming into force of Part 6, and Clause 118(3)(b), which makes it clear that such an order may contain saving and transitional provisions. The Assembly has already begun to consider the content of the necessary transitional arrangements. I hope that the system is able to cope with this. The Assembly is on board, so we do not need to make this amendment.

Baroness Hamwee

As with other amendments, it would be only proper to reflect on what the Minister has said. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No.] 11ZC: Page 21, line 4, at end insert— ( ) If to any extent a policy contained in a development plan for an area conflicts with a policy in the regional spatial strategy for the region, the conflict shall be resolved in favour of the policy in the regional spatial strategy.

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, I will speak also to Amendments Nos. 111ZD and 111ZE. Amendment No. 111ZC seeks to provide a means of resolving conflict between local development plans and regional spatial strategies. Clause 37(5) provides the procedure for dealing with conflicts between policies in the development plan. This is to suggest that provision is made for conflicts between the two documents.

This was debated in Committee in the Commons on 21 January 2003, when the Minister said at col. 254 that it would be wrong for the regional spatial strategy to predominate, when it might have been published up to five years before. The Minister said that the Government were not immediately convinced by the amendment, which was suggested to us by the Law Society, as drafted at that stage. He said that the amendment said that, RSSs reign in perpetuity űber alles, no matter whether they were published last year or five years ago … There has to be a degree of temporal hierarchy".—[Official Report, Commons Standing Committee G, 21/1/03; Cols 254–55.]

German and Latin in one paragraph. But what about the practice? Should not the Bill prescribe the hierarchy—the Minister will know how little I like prescription—in order to avoid difficulty if there is a conflict? Mr Wilshire said that his headmaster had told him that there was no substitute for common sense. I wish that statute law worked to the same rules as his headmaster. Can the Minister help me? I beg to move.

9.15 p.m.

Baroness Hanham

Amendment No. 111ZE, which is tabled in my name, is grouped with Amendment No. 111ZC. Clause 37(1) states: A reference to the development plan in any enactment mentioned in subsection (7) must be construed in accordance with subsections (2) to (5)". Subsection (7) lists the relevant enactments, which include this Bill, the planning Acts, the Land Compensation Act 1961 and the Highways Act 1980. In addition, paragraph (c), which this amendment would remove, lists, any other enactment relating to town and country planning". What are the other enactments? The list seems comprehensive, and it seems unnecessary to add paragraph (c), which is open to very broad interpretation. If some Acts are to be listed, why not list the other possible enactments? Moreover, do all the enactments referring to development plans necessarily relate to town and country planning?

Lord Rooker

I have before me a wonderful paragraph, but, as I have just said to the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, I could not possibly read it out, as it would never make sense in Hansard. I shall respond first to Amendment No. 111ZE and then deal with the amendments in reverse order. The short answer to the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, is that in addition to the Bill, the planning Acts, the Land Compensation Act 1961 and the Highways Act 1980 are some examples. We cannot see what purpose

Amendment No. 111ZE would serve. It would mean that if a piece of town and country planning legislation slipped through the net, despite our best efforts, all references in it to a development plan would have a different meaning from that in other legislation. That would not help anybody; it would cause confusion.

I do not know who dreamt up Amendment No. 111ZD, which would replace "shall" for "must". What is the difference?

Baroness Hamwee

I should have explained that. Section 54A, which was introduced by the 1991 Act, uses the terminology that I sought to import through the amendment. It is a lawyers' point. If there is a difference, let us know what it is, and if there is not, let us have the same provision so that there is no doubt.

Lord Rooker

Oh well, I shot myself there. This is not an argument about "shall" and "may"; it is about "shall" and "must". If there is an inconsistency that needs to be put right, we will have a look at it. I am sorry for my disparaging remarks or thoughts about that amendment.

Amendment No. 111ZC is not acceptable for the simple reason that it could require a conflict to be resolved in accordance with an older policy. Newer, more up-to-date policy would be overwritten by older policy in some instances. The existing wording of Clause 37(5) ensures that, where regard is to be had to the development plan in making the planning decision, that decision will be made in line with the most recent part of the development plan unless material considerations dictate otherwise. That is entirely consistent with one of the key aims of our reforms: tackling the problems caused by plans that are out of date.

If there is a concern to preserve the strategic importance of the regional spatial strategy, or revisions to it, this is already safeguarded by the Bill. Any local development documents, including development plan documents, must be in general conformity with the regional spatial strategy. If there is any difference between a development plan document and a regional spatial strategy, that difference will have to be tested through the independent examination, which is a very useful tool. There will have to be good reasons for that.

I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw the amendment. I will look at Amendment No. 111ZC to make sure that we have got that matter right.

Baroness Hanham

I do not want to be difficult. I am never difficult. But I would like an answer to the following point.

Subsection (c) refers to: any other enactment relating to town and country planning". What would those enactments be?

So far, there is a list that includes "this Act" and the "planning Acts". That is clear. What would "any other enactment" be?

Lord Rooker

I gave examples when I stood up. The Land Compensation Act 1961 and the Highways Act 1980. Is that not a good enough answer? I do not have another answer.

Baroness Hanham

That is a rotten answer. When I introduced it, I pointed out that the list already included the Highways Act and the Land Compensation Act. The Minister then throws those back at me. I want to know what the "other enactments" are. If anyone has any idea of what those might be, it would be enormously helpful.

Baroness Hamwee

Perhaps I may explain to the Minister what I regard as a practical issue regarding this matter. These days one often uses a computer to search for information. If the legislation that is affected is not listed in terms, it will not be found. A very diligent lawyer may work out that this is the effect, but the average "cooking solicitor" may not.

Lord Rooker

I apologise. I am guilty of not having done my homework. I have it in my notes, but I had not actually read subsection (7). I realise that what I just said is already there for the noble Baroness to read. My noble friend Lord Bassam had said that I did not have to read it out because the noble Baroness has done it.

I am reliably informed that subsection (7)(c) is a catch-all to cover everything. On thinking about it, that is quite unsatisfactory because we ought to know what the other enactments are. I shall take advice on this in time for the next stage to see whether we can be more precise than, any other enactment relating to town and country planning". There could be obscure legislation, but to be frank, the draftsmen working on these Bills go through everything. Rarely is anything missed out. Once again, I apologise for the flippant way I dealt with this

Baroness Hamwee

We are all at the same point of exhaustion. I thank the Minister for his various responses. I think that we should look at Amendment No. 111ZC when we feel a little recovered. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 111ZD and 111ZE not moved.]

Clause 37 agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

I beg to move that the House do now resume.

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

House resumed.

House adjourned at twenty-five minutes past nine o'clock.