Business and Planning Bill

(3rd reading: House of Commons)
(Committee: 1st sitting: House of Commons)
(Report stage: House of Commons)
Monday 29th June 2020

(3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

Considered in Committee (Order, this day)

[Dame Eleanor Laing in the Chair]

The Chairman of Ways and Means (Dame Eleanor Laing) - Hansard
29 Jun 2020, 12:04 a.m.

I should explain that, in these exceptional circumstances, although the Chair of the Committee would normally sit in the Clerk’s Chair during Committee stage, in order to comply with social distancing requirements I will remain in the Speaker’s Chair, although I will be carrying out the role not of Deputy Speaker but of Chairman of the Committee. The occupant of the Chair during the Committee should be addressed as the Chair of the Committee, rather than as Deputy Speaker.

Clause 1

Pavement licences

Mike Amesbury Portrait Mike Amesbury (Weaver Vale) (Lab) - Hansard

I beg to move amendment 2, page 2, line 2, at end insert

“, and—

(c) to which a temporary traffic regulation order under section 14 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 is operative and will remain so for the time period of the pavement licence, and which has been made pursuant to the Road Traffic (Temporary Restrictions) Procedure Regulations 1992 as amended by the Traffic Orders Procedure (Coronavirus) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020.”

The purpose of this amendment is to include pavements where temporary measures are in place already to deal with the effects of coronavirus, by assisting social distancing and enabling active travel, such as cycling and walking.

The Chairman - Hansard

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Clause stand part.

Clauses 2 to 8 stand part.

Amendment 3, in clause 9, page 7, line 37, at end insert—

“(1A) Subsection (1B) applies for the purposes of—

(a) the reference in section 1(5)(a) to a highway to which Part 7A of the Highways Act 1980 applies, and

(b) the references to traffic orders in section 3(6)(a)(i) and (b) (which, by virtue of section 3(7), have the same meaning as in that Part of that Act).

(1B) The definition of “traffic order” in section 115A(2) of the Highways Act 1980 is to be treated as if it included an order under section 14 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 made pursuant to subsection (1)(b) or (c) of that section under the procedure provided for by regulation 18 of the Road Traffic (Temporary Restrictions) Procedure Regulations 1992 (S.I. 1992/1215) (procedure for temporary orders made for purposes connected to coronavirus).”

This amendment secures that the provisions about pavement licences apply where a highway is subject to a temporary traffic order under section 14 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 for reasons relating to coronavirus.

Clauses 9 and 10 stand part.

Amendment 1, in clause 11, page 19, line 13, at end insert—

“(6A) The Secretary of State may by regulations apply sections 172F to 172L of the Licensing Act 2003 to vehicles and moveable structures in order to vary the requirement under section 189(4) of that Act that a vehicle or moveable structure not permanently situated in the same place be treated for the purposes of that Act as if it were premises situated at only that place.”

This amendment is intended to provide flexibility for mobile licensed premises which are already licensed in one place to benefit from the temporary provisions of this Act in other locations.

Clauses 11 to 26 stand part.

New clause 1—Support for the tourism and hospitality sector—

“(1) The Secretary of State must—

(a) carry out a review of the effect of Part 1 of this Act on the tourism and hospitality sector in England and Wales;

(b) set out the conclusions of the review in a report;

(c) publish the report; and

(d) arrange for copies of the report to be laid before both Houses of Parliament before 15 September 2020.

(2) The report under subsection (1) must also make an assessment of the effects of this Act on the tourism and hospitality sector in England and Wales compared with possible further and complementary measures, including, but not limited to, extending through to 2021 the period of operation in that sector of—

(a) the furlough scheme,

(b) Bounce Back loans, or

(c) other grants or financial support from public funds.”

The purpose of this new clause is for a review to examine the effect of this Bill’s proposals for the tourism and hospitality sector through to 2021, compared to extending the furlough scheme and the grants currently available.

New clause 2—Monthly report on hospitality sector measures—

“(1) The Secretary of State must publish a review of the effect of this Act’s provisions on the hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism sector.

(2) A report under subsection (1) must be published within one month of the day in which this Act is passed and at least once in every month thereafter up to and including January 2021.

(3) Every report under this section must include relevant contextual information including (but not limited to) the effect of the changes to coronavirus job retention scheme on the hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism sector.

(4) The Secretary of State must arrange for a copy of each report made under this section to be laid before each House of Parliament.”

The purpose of this new clause is to require the Secretary of State to publish a monthly report for the next six months on the impact of the Bill in the context of changes to the coronavirus job retention scheme on sectors including hospitality.

New clause 4—Explanation for extending periods under Part 2 of this Act—

“(1) Before any exercise of the powers listed in subsection (2) to make regulations under this Part of this Act the Secretary of State must make a statement on the reasons in each case for extending the provisions of this Act beyond 1 April 2021.

(2) The powers listed in this subsection are—

(a) section 16(7), on conditions relating to construction working hours;

(b) sections 17(8) and 17(9), on extending the duration of certain planning permissions;

(c) section 18(7), on extensions in connection with outline planning permission.

(3) The Secretary of State must arrange for a copy of the statement required under this section to be laid before each House of Parliament.”

The purpose of this new clause is to require the Secretary of State to provide a full explanation to the House before seeking to extend beyond 1 April 2021 any measures under this Part 2 of this Bill in relation to planning permission or construction working hours.

New clause 5—Costs on local authorities—

“(1) The Secretary of State must make an assessment of the additional costs to local authorities of the effects of Part 2 of this Act.

(2) The Secretary of State must consult local authorities before making the assessment under subsection (1).

(3) The Secretary of State must arrange for a copy of the assessment required under this section to be laid before each House of Parliament.”

The intention of this new clause is to require the Secretary of State to publish a report detailing the extra costs accrued by councils as a result of processing increased volumes of planning applications through the new deemed consent route and additional environmental approvals.

New clause 6—Rolling three month parliamentary reviews—

(1) This Act expires at the end of a review period unless the condition in subsection (2) is met.

(2) The condition is that the House of Commons has, following a debate, agreed a Motion moved during the review period by a Minister of the Crown in the form in subsection (3).

(3) The form of the Motion is—

“That the provisions of the Business and Planning Act 2020 should not yet expire.”

(4) The first review period begins on the day 90 days after the day on which this Act is passed.

(5) Subsequent review periods begin on the day 90 days after the day on which the previous review period ended.

(6) A review period ends at the end of the seventh sitting day after the day on which it begins.

(7) In this section, a “sitting day” means a day on which the House of Commons is sitting (and a day is only a day on which the House of Commons is sitting if the House begins to sit on that day).”

The purpose of this new clause is to provide a rolling review period for this legislation so that it can be revisited 3 months after it is passed and then every subsequent three months if necessary.

Mike Amesbury Portrait Mike Amesbury - Hansard
29 Jun 2020, 12:03 a.m.

The Government are asking Parliament to expedite the parliamentary progress of this Bill. In everyday circumstances, it would not be fast-tracked, but would be subject to a lower gear of progress. We are not in ordinary times or everyday circumstances, and the Opposition recognise, and have indeed constructively argued, that many of the measures outlined in the Bill need to be in place before the summer recess in order to be effective.

If legislation is not passed in time, hospitality businesses and their customers will not be able to benefit from the flexibility and covid safety arrangement measures relating to outdoor seating and alcohol service over the coming months. Likewise, road hauliers and others are dependent on heavy duty vehicle and passenger-carrying vehicle testing and licencing, and construction projects may be paused or delayed without planning permissions being extended. Furthermore, the measures will facilitate bounce back loans by disapplying unfair relationship provisions in the Consumer Credit Act 1974.

Our position on the Bill is one of constructive engagement. We want to provide support for hard-pressed businesses while giving additional freedoms and flexibility to respond to covid-19 spatial requirements. Although the additional freedoms will be welcomed by many, I ask the Minister for reassurance that checks and balances are in place in order to maintain social order. We want to ensure access for those with visual impairment or limited mobility, and the right to peace and quiet in residential areas must be maintained. My hon. Friend the Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier) will come on to that later.

It is also important that these measures are temporary and time-sensitive, with constructive engagement at the heart of any proposals to extend the operating hours of a construction site. Good planning is an enabler, rather than a constraint. Consultation helps to deliver good community, business and place outcomes.

Amendments 2 and 3 are common-sense amendments that aim to extend to more businesses the provisions in the Bill and ensure a streamlined procedure for businesses serving food and drink to access pavement licences. We welcome the provisions that will allow cafés, restaurants and pubs to reopen quickly and serve more customers, while maintaining a safe environment. The amendments would simply extend those measures to include spaces where temporary pavements have been created or extended for social distancing measures, so that businesses will be able to take advantage of that. I note the calls for caution. This needs to be done sensibly, and the impact on staff, local residents, local authorities and disabled pedestrians must be kept in mind.

New clause 2 addresses a vital omission in the Bill. The food and accommodation sector has had the largest decline in economic output of all sectors with available data in this crisis. An extraordinary drop of 92% between February and April led to almost 6% of workers being furloughed. Despite the help the Bill offers to businesses, it does not offer “business as normal.” It is vital that we understand the impact the measures in this Bill will have on these industries, especially considering the support the Government are currently providing through the furlough scheme. We need not undo the good work done by the scheme so far. The new clause would require the Government to publish a report every six months on the impact of the Bill in the context of the coronavirus job retention scheme. Such a report is vital to the understanding of the ongoing impact on hospitality, tourism, leisure and the travel sector. Only by knowing the scale of the problem after the measures in the Bill are implemented will the Government be able to match it with the proper level of tailored support that this sector will clearly need.

New clause 3 addresses the lack of regular data provided for applications for coronavirus support schemes. The Government do not currently release data on the number of businesses that fail to access loan schemes. Current data relates only to the total number of applications and the number of loans granted. Again, we must know how well the schemes are working in order to help businesses through this crisis, so I hope the Government will consider this new clause.

New clause 4 relates to part 2 of the Bill, which in turn relates to my brief, and the Minister’s brief, of planning and construction. I broadly welcome, as does the Royal Town Planning Institute, the planning measures in the Bill that will ensure that building work can safely restart, especially in light of the “build, build, build” message that will be detailed tomorrow in the Prime Minister’s much trailed speech. However, considering the impacts of longer working hours and extended planning permissions on neighbourhoods is important. Under the new clause, the Secretary of State would return to the House if he wished to extend the measures relating to construction working hours or extensions to current planning permissions beyond 1 April 2021. That is not to say that we would necessarily oppose any extensions, but it is vital that these provisions are not extended without explanation, and the new clause addresses that.

Finally, new clause 5 would require the Secretary of State to publish a report detailing the extra costs of processing these measures for local authorities. It is not clear at the moment what the measures contained in the Bill will cost local authorities in practice. Throughout this crisis they have been working around the clock to protect their communities from the covid-19 outbreak and its immediate impact. The Bill highlights that local authorities will also be crucial in the recovery phase. Their work has, as my colleagues my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) and my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon North (Steve Reed) have said, come at a huge financial cost. Austerity measures over the past 10 years have had a devastating impact on local authority budgets, and despite the rhetoric of “whatever it takes,” the Government have not provided local authorities with anywhere near the level of funding they need in the wake of the immediate crisis. The provisions in this Bill will certainly result in yet more work and higher costs for local authorities, including for local planning departments, which have already had to cut spending by half in the last decade. Given that, it is essential that we understand fully what the impact of these changes will be on local authority finances and that local authorities are fully consulted. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier) has made clear, the measures in the Bill will also not have a uniform impact across the country, and that needs to be taken into account.

We have enjoyed constructive communication on this Bill with the Government, and these amendments are tabled in a similarly constructive way. I look forward to the Government providing us with the detail and assurances on the broad range of issues I have outlined.

Ben Lake Portrait Ben Lake (Ceredigion) (PC) - Hansard
29 Jun 2020, 8:15 p.m.

Diolch, Dame Eleanor, and thank you for calling me so early in the debate. I think this must be a first for a Plaid Cymru Member; it is certainly a first for me. It is a great pleasure to follow the shadow Minister, and that is not something that I say very often because I do not follow shadow Ministers, so once again I am grateful to the Chair.

This is a short Bill, and the measures it contains are necessary to help otherwise viable businesses to survive the unprecedented impact of covid-19. The clauses relating to the hospitality sector are especially important. Other hon. Members made it clear on Second Reading just how important the sector is, and the Minister, in summing up the debate, pointed to the fact that the sector employs as much as a third of the UK workforce. Others have also argued effectively that when these businesses are able to reopen safely, they will urgently require as much flexibility as possible to adapt to the new ways of operating, not only to comply with social distancing requirements but to cater to changes in consumer demand and habits.

With this in mind, I shall address amendment 1 to clause 11, which is tabled in my name. I should like to make it clear that this is a probing amendment and that I have no desire to push it to a vote, but I would like the Minister to address the points that I shall try to make. In short, the amendment is intended to provide the flexibility for mobile licensed premises that are already licensed in one place to benefit from the temporary provisions of this legislation in other locations. One of the innovative ways that pubs and restaurants in Wales have sought to adapt to the covid-19 restrictions has been to develop, or try to develop, a delivery service, but it has become apparent that the provisions of the Licensing Act 2003 make it difficult for some licensed premises to run such a service.

Under the provisions of the Act, a person cannot sell alcohol from a vehicle or movable structure at a series of different locations—say, for the sake of argument, house-to-house—unless there is a premises licence in respect of the vehicle or movable structure at each location where a sale of alcohol is made in, on or from it. Pubs, therefore—and bars, for that matter—face complicated restrictions if they wish to reorient their business models to comply with covid-19 restrictions. We believe that, by amending sections 189 and 190 of the 2003 Act, the Government could temporarily remove the requirement for licensed premises to have a licence for each location at which a sale of alcohol is made, thereby helping the businesses to adapt to these unprecedented times. As I mentioned, this is a probing amendment but I would welcome the Minister’s comments on the proposals.

I would like to move on briefly to address the issue of small, independent breweries. I would welcome similar support being made for these organisations. We know that a quarter of all small breweries currently have no way to sell directly to the public, and in this respect I agree with the points made by the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) on Second Reading. I appreciate the point the Minister made in response to the hon. Member for Strangford’s intervention that as the hospitality sector—and the pub sector in particular—reopens, some of those breweries will find that they have customers again, but this is worth keeping under consideration, because if the pub trade has to go al fresco, it will be quite dependent on the weather, and some of those small breweries might find that their customers do not require quite as much towards the end of the summer or in the early autumn, and they might therefore want to sell directly again. It is a point well made that small breweries have seen their sales reduced by between 65% and 82% due to covid-19, and they have not received the same level of financial support as other businesses in the hospitality sector.

Meg Hillier Portrait Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard
29 Jun 2020, 8:18 p.m.

As the MP for a constituency that has a lot of small breweries, I have some sympathy with this. I would not want to see more off sales in my constituency, but does the hon. Member not think the root of the problem is that these small breweries did not get support through the existing Government mechanisms, which went quite a long way but did not cover this sector?

Ben Lake Portrait Ben Lake - Hansard
29 Jun 2020, 8:19 p.m.

The hon. Lady makes a good point. A lot of these issues would have been circumnavigated if small breweries had been entitled to some of the support measures that were made available to other businesses in the hospitality sector.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP) - Hansard
29 Jun 2020, 8:19 p.m.

Not only do the breweries have an issue with how to sell their products; they also had a lot of their product in storage, which then went off and had to be disposed of in whatever way that is done. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the breweries had a double whammy in not being able to make sales and having their stock destroyed?

Ben Lake Portrait Ben Lake - Hansard

The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point. It is particularly the smaller independent breweries, where storage is perhaps even more of an issue, that will have had to dispose of a lot of their stock at considerable cost. Then there is the relative uncertainty as to when they might reopen and, indeed, how much beer to brew again. That is another problem that small breweries in my constituency have tried to tackle. I still think that might be a discussion to have. It is at least worth keeping the matter under review. I would welcome the Government being willing to do that.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned temporary events notices and licences. Another proposal would be to consider extending the authorisation of off sales to small breweries that do not hold a premises licence, but that are registered under the alcohol wholesaler registration scheme. That would be temporary and quite exceptional, but in these exceptional times there might be a case for it.

New clause 1 was tabled by the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron), and he may well speak to that at greater length in a moment, but I put on record my support for it. The Government need to recognise the need for sectoral flexibility as they review how to withdraw some of the support schemes and take stock of whether these measures, exceptional as they are, are working. Given the nature of the crisis we face, our focus must continue to be on protecting otherwise viable businesses and supporting employment, so I welcome new clause 1.

Finally, I turn to the provisions in the first part of the Bill relating to the consumption of food and drink outdoors. A few Members have referred to those provisions as ushering in an al fresco age, which I am sure we are all excited to see, weather permitting. That part of the Bill extends to Wales as well as England, but the wording of clause 1 has caused some confusion as to whether it will apply directly to Wales. In concluding my remarks, I ask the Minister to clarify in his summing up whether the provisions will apply to Wales directly. If not, is he content that the Welsh Senedd is empowered to introduce similar provisions to support bars and restaurants in Wales, so that we may also see an al fresco culture in Wales over the summer?

Meg Hillier Portrait Meg Hillier - Hansard
29 Jun 2020, midnight

I rise to discuss new clause 6, which stands in my name. The Bill has been very rushed. It was announced on Thursday in the business of the House. We had to lay amendments by Friday, and I thank you, Dame Eleanor, for allowing a manuscript amendment today in order to get the new clause put forward.

As the Government rush into this legislation—I think there are questions about why that is—it is important that we make sure there are points of review and reflection about how well it is working. To put it more charitably, I am trying to save the Government from themselves. I think there is a lot of support across the House for the new clause, but in the very short time between Thursday and now, it has been hard to marshal all that and enable people to come and express their views.

The Minister may be able to answer this, but why has the Bill been quite so rushed, given that we have been in lockdown since 23 March and we knew that was coming for some time before then and given that we knew these sectors would be among the hardest hit? One would have thought that somebody in the Government would have been working up a Bill and stress-testing it before now, so that it was not such a surprise to Members of this House and sectors out there.

Local government has been caught rather by surprise. Of course it has been involved. I am not saying to the Minister that the Government have not spoken to local government. It would be extraordinary if he had come to the House from his Department and not done that. But there has not been enough detailed discussion about the impacts. We have heard, and I will not go into the detail again, about some of the impacts in constituencies such as mine and other urban constituencies with a high density of licensed premises, where antisocial behaviour has already been happening as a result.

We are already seeing problems, so there is a warning sign for the Government. The reality is that once off sales are allowed, as the hon. Member for Kensington (Felicity Buchan said, at the same hours as on licensed premises—almost with a sweep of a pen, with a very short period for councils to object—we will see an awful lot more sales off the premises at all hours of the day and night. We also have the big issue about the resources involved from the police and local councils to police it.

It is easy to say, as the Minister did, that the police have certain powers and there are powers for local authorities, but the issue is the resourcing. We cannot just do all of that in one go. A lot of licences are being applied for. There are more than 1,300 licensed premises across my borough as a whole. How many licensing officers are needed to do that work? The police have other things to do with their time—certainly that is the case in my constituency, where they are dealing with serious crime issues, as well as antisocial behaviour and managing and policing social distancing and covid-19 regulations. There is a lot on everyone’s plate. We want to support businesses, but a three-month review after this has been in place would give the Government the chance to come back and either reassure us that it is all fine everywhere, or, if there are problems, look at ways of addressing that. The Minister has heard today from the Labour Front Benchers that there is strong support to get the economy going, and backing to make sure that businesses can survive the next period, as we still live in the pandemic. That is really important, certainly in a constituency such as mine with so many licensed premises, but we have to get that balance so that residents do not lose out.

This is a very mild amendment. Earlier, the Secretary of State rejected it because I had discussed a rolling amendment—I just say to the Minister that I had very little time to draft it and get advice about how to make it fit. I did not have time to discuss it in detail with the Government, otherwise I would have, and I know that other Members around the House agree with it.

I will not push the amendment to a vote today, but I am hoping that in the other place, they will have more time to think about, listen and reflect upon it, and that, in the meantime, the Government will also have time to reflect on it. Perhaps the Minister can give me some indication of whether this is something that the Government are willing to reflect on—to build in, simply, a three-month review point, so that three months after the Bill becomes an Act, the issue would come to the House again. A Minister would come to explain what is happening and we would have a debate about how this is working in our constituencies up and down the country, in the four nations of the UK, and we can make sure that we are getting it right. If there are problems then, the Government would have my backing to bring in certain powers to ensure that the antisocial behaviour that I fear this may herald is tackled, and I am sure that the Government would have the backing of other Members.

It would be helpful to hear from the Government about their thinking on this very mild amendment. We pushed for a review of the covid-19 legislation, which was pretty draconian. That was accepted by the Government and I propose this review in a similar spirit. I do not think that this will provide uncertainty for businesses. A review, when there has been such cross-party support in general for a proposal that supports businesses, is unlikely to completely reverse it, but it may allow for amelioration of some of the worst impacts if they materialise, as I fear they may in my constituency, or it may allow for different approaches to how the measures are applied in different nations of the UK, different regions or different cities.

They key thing is that if we have the review, it would give the Government and the House an option to look at this again. I think that something as draconian as this—the biggest change in licensing rules for decades—warrants a review. Some of these licences will be granted for a year if they pass through on the nod. A lot of them will go through very fast because of a lack of resources in local authorities. I urge the Minister to take my suggestion for this amendment constructively. I will not push it to a vote today because I recognise that, although the Bill is rushed, the amendment is also rushed. I hope, however, that the other place will consider it, that the Government will approach it thoughtfully and that when the Bill returns to this place, we can consider having a three-month review.

Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD) - Hansard
29 Jun 2020, 6:59 p.m.

I shall speak to new clause 1, which I will not push to a Division because, for reasons mentioned by others—not least the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier)—I accept the premise of the Bill. It is about boosting the economy and creating flexibility so that people can begin to make a living again within the confines of the important safety restrictions that there are. However, I am very much looking to the Minister and the Government to be very clear that they will accept the terms and the general approach of my amendment, which seeks Government support for the hospitality and tourism industry beyond the current date set, which is the end of October, when the Government’s financial support schemes currently run out.

We welcome this Bill, rushed though it is, and understanding the necessity of that. We also welcome the support that the Government have given to the sector and the economy more widely. Undoubtedly the furlough scheme, the grant schemes and, more recently, after a lot of lobbying by myself and plenty of others, the discretionary schemes delivered through local authorities have helped to save thousands of companies from bankruptcy and protected millions of jobs. I am grateful to the Government for that.

But tourism and hospitality is a special case. It is a special case because, for many parts of the country, and especially the Lake district, the Yorkshire dales and the rest of south Cumbria in my constituency, it operates on a seasonal basis—on a feast and famine basis. The reality is that covid-19 kicked in at the end of the winter, so there was famine and then the feast was cancelled. October—the month when the Government support for this industry and others will end—is the beginning of the next famine. We have to be very clear about this: if we say to the hospitality and tourism industry that, having missed out on its feast, it has to survive on its own two feet after October, we will simply be signing the death warrant of an entire industry right across this country. As I say, the industry operates on feast and famine. The other way of looking at this is that our hospitality and tourism industry across the UK will be expected to live on the basis of three consecutive winters, and there is no way it can absorb that—there is no way that many of these businesses will be able to survive it.

We are all working towards 4 July, and we are excited about it, with trepidation, but I want to remind the Minister and anybody else who needs reminding that, on 4 July, we will not see the widespread opening up of all the tourism and hospitality sector. In a survey of its members just a few days ago, Cumbria Tourism revealed that 69% of hospitality and tourism businesses in Cumbria will not be able to open fully on 4 July or any time soon after that, and 10% will not be able to open at all. The Government must not fall into a false sense of security that opening up to a degree on 4 July rescues the industry. Instead of famine, feast, famine it will be famine, small picnic, famine. We must not allow ourselves to assume that all is well within the industry just because of 4 July, welcome though that may be.

I remind the Minister that my constituency has had the single biggest increase in unemployment in the country since March—314%—and that 37% of my entire workforce is on furlough, which is the single biggest percentage outside London. The vast bulk of those people work in the tourism and hospitality sector. We hope that, having waited through the summer without a holiday, some of the people who would have travelled abroad might decide to holiday at home; I hope they do, and I support them in doing so. But we cannot assume that a rise in staycations will do anything to compensate for the losses that the industry has had over the summer months, which are of course not the Government’s fault, but we look to the Government to extend the support.

Alongside others, I have presented a petition calling for Government support beyond October through to spring 2021. It has the support of MPs across the House, including, I am pleased to say, my neighbours the hon. Members for Penrith and The Border (Dr Hudson) and for Barrow and Furness (Simon Fell). It also has the support of the heads and chief executives of the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales national parks, and many other destination organisations around the country such as Visit Cornwall, as well as my own, Cumbria Tourism.

This is a cross-party effort. New clause 1 is in my name, but it is supported by many Members. I hope that the Government will take notice and provide support for an industry that is the fourth biggest employer in the United Kingdom and the biggest employer in Cumbria. While I recognise that extending support for that industry from October through to spring will be expensive, I want the Minister to realise that not providing that support will also be hideously expensive, as tens of thousands of people become unemployed and we see the collapse of businesses that would otherwise be healthy and ready to start the fightback from the beginning of the new season in spring. I will not seek to divide the Committee on this matter, but I strongly urge the Minister to acknowledge what I am saying and to commit the Government to supporting a package of support for hospitality and tourism right the way through to spring 2021.

Christopher Pincher Portrait The Minister for Housing (Christopher Pincher) - Hansard
29 Jun 2020, 8:40 p.m.

I thank everyone in the Chamber for the constructive discussion that we have had in Committee and on Second Reading. I want particularly to thank Opposition Front Benchers for the positive discussions we have had over the last several days to bring this Bill through all its stages today.

I also thank all the members of the BEIS team who have provided such great support for the Bill, those in the Department for Transport, those in my office and particularly—in my own Department, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government—Simon Gallagher and his planning team for all their efforts while there have been other demands, with the covid-19 emergency, on their time.

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy set out, the overall aim of the Bill is to provide a boost to key sectors of our economy—the hospitality, construction, transport and SME sectors. It will support businesses across the economy, particularly in the hardest-hit sectors, to transition from the immediate crisis and the response to lockdown towards economic recovery. It will also support businesses to implement new safer ways of working to manage the ongoing risk of covid-19, and particularly the need, as we all know, for continued social distancing.

Hon. Members have made important points in their contributions on the amendments and new clauses tabled in Committee, and I should like to discuss them in turn. I turn first to amendment 3 to clause 9 of this Bill, which speaks to the same point as amendment 2. I thank Opposition Members for this amendment, as it raises the important matter that we would want to include in our definition of “relevant highway” those highways that benefit from a temporary traffic restriction order. This is particularly so given that more of these orders are now being made to encourage active travel, including walking, as people get back to work and more shops reopen. Our definition did not include highways where such temporary traffic restriction orders are in place, and it should have done; that was our intention. If we do not make this change, the scope of the pavement licence provisions will be limited, reducing the number of businesses that will be able to benefit and undermining the powers granted to local authorities that allow them to manage their public spaces in response to covid-19.

For those reasons, and in the spirit of the constructive comments made by the hon. Member for Weaver Vale (Mike Amesbury), I will accept this minor technical amendment, amendment 3, to the definition of relevant highway in clause 9. I am grateful to him for bringing it to our attention, and I invite him to move it formally later. [Interruption.] It may only be the one, but bag them while you can.

I turn to amendment 1 to clause 11. Clause 11, as drafted, provides a bespoke temporary change to the Licensing Act 2003 to provide an automatic extension to the terms of on-sales alcohol premises to allow the sale for consumption off the premises. This is the amendment to which the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Ben Lake) spoke very eloquently. It is important that every person wishing to sell alcohol has a licence to do so, and for licensing authorities to be able to record and regulate the sale of alcohol through their area of control. The amendment would allow mobile traders to sell alcohol in places not previously allowed, and that could lead to a significant number of alcohol sales taking place from new locations not previously allowed by licensing authorities, potentially leading to crowding and disorder in those new locations. I would encourage mobile traders to apply for a variation order to their licence under existing legislation. For that reason, I am not able to accept his amendment, although I understand the thrust of it. I also recognise that it is perhaps an important issue in rural areas such as the one that he represents, so I would be happy to talk to him further about how we can help the rural economy through this difficult time moving towards winter. I am sure that my colleagues in the Home Office will be prepared similarly so to do.

I now turn to new clauses 1 and 2. The extraordinary support that we have put in place has been about getting us through this crisis, and the Bill is now supporting us out of it. It is the case that some firms will be affected by coronavirus for longer than others, and the Government will seek to support these firms appropriately. So far, the coronavirus job retention scheme has helped 1.1 million employers across the United Kingdom to furlough 9.2 million jobs, protecting many, many people’s livelihoods. Starting with the first release on 11 June, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs is publishing monthly figures for the coronavirus job retention scheme claims, broken down by employer size, sector and geography. These figures are publicly available on the gov.uk website. They show the total number of jobs furloughed and the value of claims made within the accommodation, food services, arts, entertainment and recreation sectors. The Office for National Statistics also provides a very great deal of data.

I therefore believe that there is data available that the House can see and that Opposition Members can use, and therefore there is no need for the new clause. The hon. Member for Weaver Vale is, I would suggest, a seasoned player in the Standing Orders of this House, and he knows how to use urgent questions, SO24 applications and Opposition day debates. There will be plenty of opportunities for him to raise issues of concern with the Executive at the Dispatch Box without the need for the new clause.

The hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron) spoke very eloquently about the importance of supporting the hospitality and leisure sector, particularly in rural economies as wintertime approaches. I remind him that the tools that we have put in place already, such as the job retention scheme, are only temporary. There may be other, more effective and more sensible long-term tools to support the economic sectors to which he referred. The Chancellor made it absolutely clear in his remarks at the Dispatch Box during the Budget and subsequently that he will do whatever it takes to support our economy and its relevant sectors as we move through this crisis. I am therefore afraid that we cannot support new clauses 1 and 2, and I encourage those who proposed them to withdraw them.

I thank the hon. Member for Weaver Vale for tabling new clause 4, which would require the Secretary of State, prior to making any regulations to extend the time limits associated with the powers in respect of construction working hours, or extending the duration of certain planning permissions or extensions in connection with outline planning permissions, to make a statement to the House on the reasons for the extension beyond 1 April 2021. We recognise that there are concerns about this, but let me assure the hon. Gentleman that the powers in question were drawn in a proportionate way to address only what is necessary to facilitate the continued activity in the sector through this crisis. These delegated powers are considered essential to allow the flexibility necessary to respond to the emerging effects of coronavirus, its potential continuing effect on the sector, and the uncertainty around its future trajectory. Our intention is to exercise the powers only if the effects of coronavirus, including social distancing measures or other restrictions, continue for a longer period. I can make that clear to him from the Dispatch Box.

Matt Western Portrait Matt Western (Warwick and Leamington) (Lab) - Hansard
29 Jun 2020, midnight

Just to pick up on new clause 4 and on the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier), while this from the Government is viewed as continuing into the future, the importance of the new clause is taking stock of the situation and realising how well that has worked. From comments across the Chamber, I am sure that the Minister understands there is concern about or fear of mayhem, because this is being rushed through. Local authorities such as Warwick District Council and Warwickshire County Council, have few resources, are under huge financial pressure and have little capacity to be able to enforce such changes. I welcome what the Government are trying to do, but I have real concerns about the ability to enforce.

Christopher Pincher Portrait Christopher Pincher - Hansard
29 Jun 2020, 12:01 a.m.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that point. I will address it, if I may, when I come to new clause 6, which the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier) mentioned. To speak partly to his point, and in conclusion on this, the powers are subject to the affirmative procedure for draft regulations, which will enable Parliament to scrutinise thoroughly any relevant use of the powers, because the approval of both Houses will be needed. I therefore do not think that there is a need for new clause 4, and I would invite the Opposition to withdraw it.

With respect to new clause 5, again I thank the hon. Member for Weaver Vale for its tabling, because it provides an opportunity to give reassurance that local authorities will not be overburdened by the proposals in the Bill. This new clause would require the Secretary of State, following consultation with local planning authorities, to publish a report to provide an assessment of the costs to be incurred by local authorities as part of our proposed planning measures in the context of the covid-19 epidemic.

The applications relate to both the provision allowing for applications to extend construction working hours under clause 16 and the additional environmental approval process under clauses 17 and 18. Both the new forms of application will be free of charge to the applicant, which is to encourage developers to take advantage of the provisions in order to start or resume development as quickly as possible.

For three reasons, we do not consider the cost burden of either route to be particularly onerous on local planning authorities. First, each route deals with a single issue, and the onus is on the applicant to provide sufficient information. If insufficient information is provided by the developer, in the case of an additional environmental approval application or of an application for an extension to construction site working hours, the application will not count as having been made at all.

Secondly, as I said, the measures are temporary. This will therefore only be a short-term administrative burden over the course of this financial year. Thirdly, we do not expect individual authorities to face a deluge of applications under each route. For example, our analysis shows that by 1 August 546 planning permissions for major residential developments across the country would have lapsed since 23 March, an average of 1.5 permissions per authority. Cumulatively, it is important to the economy to see those progress, but for individual local planning authorities we do not believe that the effect will be particularly onerous. Again, I invite the Opposition to withdraw the clause.

I will speak briefly to new clause 6, as many Members are watching. I appreciate that some Members are concerned about the need to ensure that any changes made under the fast-track legislation are restricted to what is proportionate and necessary. Ensuring that measures are time-limited can be an effective way to do that, but a rolling review provision across the whole of Act is not the best approach in this case.

The first reason is that two provisions in the Bill are permanent; they would be jeopardised by a rolling review of the entire Bill. The second is that part of the reason for these measures is to give the business community, local authorities and Government agencies certainty about what they need to do with certain planning activities. A cliff edge 90-day end to the processes that they are undertaking would remove any chance of the certainty that they are looking for.

The hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch has many ways in which she can advance her concerns. She can use Standing Orders, in which she is a seasoned expert, to look at SO 24 debates; she can encourage her Front Benchers to undertake Opposition debates, and she can use the Public Accounts Committee to undertake inquiries. There are many ways in which she can progress her concerns other than through new clause 6.

Meg Hillier Portrait Meg Hillier - Hansard

My drafting may not have been perfect; the Bill has been very rushed, so it was difficult to get it right. Can the Minister give me any comfort that, in his mind or the Government’s, there is scope to allow a three-month review point on the licensing element so that there is simply a review? Given the Government’s majority, they would have to agree to any change anyway, but a review point seems a sensible, proportionate measure so that we can all reflect on how this is working and pick up any issues. If he could give me an indication of whether that is something the Government might consider as the Bill goes through the other place, that would be very helpful.

Christopher Pincher Portrait Christopher Pincher - Hansard

I appreciate the hon. Lady’s concern and I understand why she raises those points. However, I simply reiterate that introducing a rolling review would kill certain aspects of the Bill and reduce the certainty and clarity that businesses and planners are looking for. It may also jeopardise the conclusion of the Bill before the summer recess, and we need to get it on the statute book so that businesses around our country can benefit from its provisions over the summer months.

Let me reiterate the importance of this Bill for our economy in these extraordinary times. As we emerge from this pandemic, we need to do all we can to support our economic recovery and help businesses adjust to a new and safe way of working. I therefore encourage the House to support amendment 3 tabled by the hon. Member for Weaver Vale (Mike Amesbury), and I encourage the proponents of all other amendments to withdraw them.

Mike Amesbury Portrait Mike Amesbury - Hansard

This has been a constructive debate, and I thank Members across the Chamber for their positive contributions and suggestions, which I hope will be taken up in the other place. I thank the Government, and I thank the Minister in particular for his positive engagement. We are happy to withdraw amendment 2 in my name and those of my right hon. and hon. Friends, and I look forward to moving amendment 3. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 2 to 8 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 9

Interpretation

Amendment made: 3, page 7, line 37, at end insert—

“(1A) Subsection (1B) applies for the purposes of—

(a) the reference in section 1(5)(a) to a highway to which Part 7A of the Highways Act 1980 applies, and

(b) the references to traffic orders in section 3(6)(a)(i) and (b) (which, by virtue of section 3(7), have the same meaning as in that Part of that Act).

(1B) The definition of “traffic order” in section 115A(2) of the Highways Act 1980 is to be treated as if it included an order under section 14 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 made pursuant to subsection (1)(b) or (c) of that section under the procedure provided for by regulation 18 of the Road Traffic (Temporary Restrictions) Procedure Regulations 1992 (S.I. 1992/1215) (procedure for temporary orders made for purposes connected to coronavirus).”—(Mike Amesbury.)

This amendment secures that the provisions about pavement licences apply where a highway is subject to a temporary traffic order under section 14 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 for reasons relating to coronavirus.

Clause 9, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 10 to 26 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill, as amended, reported.

Bill, as amended in the Committee, considered.

Bill read the Third time and passed.

Dame Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton) - Hansard

I will now suspend the House for three minutes to allow the safe exit of hon. Members participating in this item of business and the safe arrival of hon. Members for the next.

Sitting suspended.