Christopher Pincher contributions to the Business and Planning Act 2020

Tue 21st July 2020 Business and Planning Bill (Commons Chamber)
Ping Pong: House of Commons
8 interactions (945 words)
Mon 29th June 2020 Business and Planning Bill (Commons Chamber)
2nd reading: House of Commons
15 interactions (3,893 words)

Business and Planning Bill

(Ping Pong: House of Commons)
Christopher Pincher Excerpts
Tuesday 21st July 2020

(2 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

Determination of Applications

Christopher Pincher Portrait The Minister for Housing (Christopher Pincher) - Hansard

I beg to move, That this House agrees with Lords amendment 1.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing) - Hansard

With this we may take Lords amendments 2 to 42.

Christopher Pincher Portrait Christopher Pincher - Hansard
21 Jul 2020, 12:02 a.m.

This Bill is an essential part of the Government’s response to the effects of covid-19 and the restrictions that have been keeping people safe. We know that these restrictions have come at a considerable cost to our economy and to people’s lives. We all have constituents who are desperate to get back to work— desperate to get back to their normal lives. This Bill will help to make that happen. This Bill will help the country get back on its feet.

The amendments that we are considering this evening do not disrupt the thrust of the Bill as it left this House. In fact, they improve it. It is worth remembering that when this Bill was last in this House we debated it over one afternoon—unusually fast, as several hon. and right hon. Members have said—to ensure that it would come into force before the summer recess and give the greatest possible benefit to the country.  The Bill has received more extensive consideration in the other place, and I hope that we can agree the amendments.

I am grateful to hon. and right hon. Members for their constructive engagement with the Bill. I am particularly grateful to the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) and his colleagues in the Opposition for their collaboration. Members’ thoughtfulness and involvement have been a great help in improving this legislation, and I am pleased with the result of our deliberations. I should also like to recognise parliamentary counsel, the legal advisers and staff of the other place and of this House for marshalling this Bill through all its stages.

I shall briefly summarise the amendments that have been made in the other place. First, we have improved the pavement licensing measures in several ways. We have ensured that authorities must have regard to the needs of disabled people when considering whether to grant a pavement licence, and we have ensured that non-smoking areas will be provided by businesses that are granted pavement licences. We have also ensured that local authorities can delegate decisions about pavement licences to sub-committees or to officials, and that regulations issued by Government will be laid before Parliament. Those amendments are in keeping with the policy intention of the pavement licence provisions and improve them. I therefore hope that the House will support the amendments.

Secondly, we have amended the provisions about off-sales of alcohol to combat antisocial behaviour. I am especially grateful to hon. Members for their involvement in this issue—especially my hon. Friend the Member for Kensington (Felicity Buchan); my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Nickie Aiken), who brought to bear her considerable experience as the leader of a London council; and the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier), who spoke eloquently when we last debated the matter in this House. I believe that collectively, they have improved the Bill. The Bill now limits off-sales to 11 pm at the latest, and any new permissions will not allow the sale of alcohol for consumption in outdoor areas of the premises that are already restricted by the premises licence. Making off-sales of alcohol easier will help the hospitality industry to recover more quickly, but in a way that does not encourage antisocial behaviour.

Thirdly, we have increased the extension of planning permission by one month. This is a modest extension, but it will provide further certainty and reassurance to developers and local authorities that planning permissions will not lapse unnecessarily as a result of the pandemic. Fourthly, in response to the report by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, any extension to the provisions can be made only when it is

“necessary or appropriate for a purpose linked to the coronavirus pandemic.”

That is an important clarification.

Finally, the Bill now amends section 78 of the Coronavirus Act 2020 so that the Government can make regulations to enable specific authorities to conduct their meetings remotely. These authorities were omitted from the Coronavirus Act because of the speed with which that legislation was passed, and now is the appropriate time to include them. I hope the House will agree these Lords amendments.

I am sure that hon. and right hon. Members agree that businesses throughout our country need the benefit of these provisions this summer. As someone once put it, we need to help to fix the economy while the sun is shining. If we do not pass this Bill today, it will not take effect until the autumn, and the country will lose out on the valuable provisions over the summer months. The Bill has been much improved and scrutinised in the other place, and it is an example of how Parliament can work quickly and effectively in the national interest and set the United Kingdom on a path to recovery. I therefore trust that the House will support all the Lords amendments.

Edward Miliband Portrait Edward Miliband (Doncaster North) (Lab) - Hansard

I rise to support Lords amendment 1 and the other Lords amendments that have been sent back to us from the other place. This is an important Bill, as the Minister said—particularly so for the hospitality industry. The Minister made reference to the speed with which it went through this place, and I agree that it has benefited from consideration in the Lords. I join him in thanking all the people who have worked on the Bill, including the civil servants who worked on it at speed to ensure that it can help the hospitality industry and other industries in this time of crisis.

I will briefly refer to some of the changes made by their lordships. I agree with the Minister that limiting off-sales to 11 pm is an important change. I pay tribute to Government Members for their work on this issue, and I pay particular tribute to the campaign by my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier). It is hard to say no to her, but she made a very important and correct case. Although it applies particularly to her constituency, it also applies elsewhere, and I understand why she made that case. Their lordships accepted it, and we should too.

The Minister is right to draw attention to the important issue of pavement licences and disability, which needs to be taken into consideration when local councils make decisions. The needs of the hospitality industry are clearly very important, but we cannot ignore the needs of disabled people in our country.

The other notable innovation of the Bill relates to smoke-free areas outside when additional licences are granted. That important change will enable people to enjoy the outside space—obviously, they are not able to take advantage of inside space in the old way—with the guarantee of a smoke-free environment. The Minister made reference to a number of other changes, which we support.

The one other point that I will make—I think the Minister and his colleagues will agree with this—is that although this is a necessary set of changes for the hospitality industry, it is not sufficient. We continue to have deep concerns about what we see as the premature ending of the furlough for that industry and other sectors that are in difficulty. With that said, I urge the House to support these Lords amendments.

Break in Debate

Meg Hillier Portrait Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op) - Parliament Live - Hansard

I want to put on record how proud I am of the entrepreneurs in Hackney who have contributed so much to developing our night-time economy—often quite young people who have come up with interesting ideas about how to develop their premises and contribute to our economy. However, it does cost Hackney Council £1.5 million a year in extra cleaning to manage the night-time economy that we have fostered. In its original form, the Bill would have contributed to some of the behaviour we have seen in recent weeks and months in my borough. I never like to stand up here and say bad things about the constituency I represent, but we have seen some appalling behaviour—I will not repeat what I said last time.

The Minister talked about the thoughtfulness and involvement of hon. Members that has greatly improved the Bill. I say to the Government that, even in a pandemic, a little more time could create even better legislation. Given that we were in the pandemic and businesses were thinking about this much earlier, a little more time—a week, even—would have been better than the three days we originally had to consider the Bill. We could have saved ourselves a lot of trouble, because there was agreement that we needed to support the hospitality industry, but there is also agreement across the House today—happily, we have seen some important changes—that we should support the residents, who will suffer if we do not get the balance right. In fact, the businesses in my area that have been there for a long time, living in most cases pretty harmoniously with residents, want to have that long-term relationship, so they were not all in favour of the original proposals. That could have been ameliorated if hon. Members had been involved at an earlier stage.

I particularly welcome and pay tribute to my colleagues in the other place on the limit on off-sales to 11 pm—I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Kensington (Felicity Buchan), who was the first to raise that issue in this House—and the limits on extensions to that. Off-sales cannot be a permanent free-for-all. Of course, if a local area decides that it works, it is at liberty to grant a licence in a particular area or a particular part of that area, but this freedom in licensing must not continue just because we have had it during a pandemic—it has to be down to local authorities that know their area, know their residents and know and support their businesses. The decision should never be taken away and made subject to a blanket permission from central Government. I welcome the intervention from their Lordships and I thank the Minister for accepting the amendments, so that we can move quickly on to support our businesses while ameliorating the impact on our residents.

Christopher Pincher Portrait Christopher Pincher - Parliament Live - Hansard
20 Jul 2020, 12:05 a.m.

I do not propose to detain the House any longer than simply to say thank you to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and to right hon. and hon. Members across the House for their commitment to the Bill and their contributions to it. I wish it safe and swift passage to Royal Assent.

Lords amendment 1 agreed to.

Lords amendments 2 to 42 agreed to.

Deferred Divisions

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 41A(3)),

That, at this day’s sitting, Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply to the Motions in the name of Secretary Matt Hancock relating to Public Health; the Motion in the name of Secretary Dominic Raab relating to Sanctions; and the Motion in the name of Christopher Pincher relating to Town and Country Planning.—(David Duguid.)

Business and Planning Bill

(2nd reading: House of Commons)
Christopher Pincher Excerpts
Monday 29th June 2020

(3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Steve Reed Portrait Steve Reed (Croydon North) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard
29 Jun 2020, 7:40 p.m.

I would like to start by saying that I welcome this Bill on behalf of the Labour party. It is a pleasure, after my disagreements with the Secretary of State over recent weeks, to find myself broadly in agreement with Government Front Benchers this evening. I thank the Minister for engaging with me so constructively about this over recent days. Businesses clearly need more support to get back to work quickly and safely. This Bill is a start. It is intended to enable the next phase of easing the lockdown to go ahead.

Before I elaborate, I thank the Members in all parts of the House who have made contributions to the debate, including my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier), who raised concerns about the impact of further relaxing licensing on antisocial behaviour which I am sure the Minister will wish to respond to. I add my congratulations to the many we have already heard around the House on the two maiden speeches from the new hon. Members for South Ribble (Katherine Fletcher) and for Sedgefield (Paul Howell). They were very different speeches in style but both extremely admirable debuts in this Chamber. I look forward to many more I suspect entertaining contributions from the hon. Member for South Ribble.

The country is facing a major recession, perhaps the worst in three centuries. It will take a major national effort to help families and employers to get through this while also making sure that the risks of a second damaging peak in covid-19 infection are minimised. These circumstances would be challenging for any Government. Without a vaccine—and we do not have one yet—nothing is risk-free. My right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) outlined from the Dispatch Box how the Opposition have supported the Government in many key decisions throughout this pandemic, and that extends to this Bill and other very significant measures such as the furlough scheme.

However, we must recognise too, so that we can learn from them, that the Government have made mistakes that have made the situation more difficult than it needed to be. Their initial promises on council funding have still not been matched by action, leaving many local authorities that will be key to supporting economic recovery in their own localities uncertain about funding just a few weeks ahead, let alone in the months and years ahead as the recession deepens. The Government’s instinct to over- centralise and their failure to listen enough to communities and professionals on the frontline has led to serious and avoidable failures in obtaining protective equipment, ramping up testing, protecting care homes, and accurately identifying everyone who needed support to self-isolate through the shielding programme. I would add, in the light of what we have seen in Leicester today and over recent days, their failure to share the data on the infection rates in localities with the relevant authorities in those localities, who will need it in order to marshal the support that is needed to enforce local lockdowns if they are required.

After the Government wasted two months on a centralised track and trace programme based on an app that never worked, they belatedly, although rightly, recognised the importance of engaging local government and public health professionals, but not soon enough to provide reassurance that the lockdown could be eased as safely as possible. As a result of that, we are reopening, but with higher levels of risk than were necessary. These failures have made the challenges to people’s health, people’s jobs, our high streets and our businesses worse than they needed to be, and there are important lessons to learn if we want to avoid a second lockdown.

The hospitality sector faces particular challenges. The temporary changes to licensing rules will help pubs, cafés, bars and restaurants to reopen quickly and serve customers outside. Many of these businesses operate on extremely tight margins, and without this lifeline many would not survive, so the changes are welcome. However, the British Beer and Pub Association points out that 10,000 pubs are not eligible for the Government’s grant scheme. It says that unless the Government make specific support available now, thousands of pubs will close for good, taking hundreds of thousands of jobs with them. We cannot allow that to happen to such an important part of the British way of life for so many people, so I hope that the Government will move quickly to provide the support that is needed.

My right hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State for Business made some very important points about the need for the Government to review the flexibility of the furlough scheme to support the specific needs of the hospitality sector. Sectors of the economy will open at different rates. Some are more susceptible to covid-19-related restrictions than others, and the hospitality sector is one of the most at risk. There needs to be greater flexibility, or many businesses that are vital to the life and identity of their locality, and the jobs that come with them, will be lost forever.

Local authorities have a key role to play in supporting their local hospitality sector, but they need greater clarity from the Government on their new role. The Government must be clear on how the new licensing requirements will be monitored and enforced, given the severe lack of resources available in local authorities to carry out those functions. Council budgets are under unprecedented pressure after 10 years of austerity and the Government’s broken promises on fully compensating them for the costs they have incurred as a result of covid-19. It is important that the Government now offer cast-iron guarantees that none of the measures in this Bill will place further costs on councils that could lead to further cuts elsewhere.

We welcome the extension of construction site working hours. The sector has a backlog of work to catch up on, and this flexibility will allow that to happen. It is important that communities do not feel their interests are being ignored in this, so Labour would like to see councils given the discretion they need to restrict hours of operation where there is a compelling and overriding local reason to do so.

The introduction of more flexible planning appeals is also welcome in speeding up the process—although perhaps not as flexible as the Secretary of State for Housing has been involved in recently—but we want reassurance that no legitimate voice is digitally excluded from being heard. Local government is worried about the cost implications of these new rules, so I urge the Minister to publish a report detailing the extra costs that councils will face in processing increased volumes of planning applications through the new system.

The measures to speed up lending through the bounce-back loan scheme are welcome, but I hope the Government will recognise that many businesses are still finding it difficult to access loans through CBILS, as the backlog builds up and the rules lock out too many. We need a fresh look at how the scheme can be amended to support more businesses faster. I agree with the points made by the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron) about people who are directors of small limited companies—often freelancers—who have been denied support and, as I know from my own constituency of Croydon North, are really struggling as a result.

In conclusion, the measures in the Bill are welcome and we will help to ensure its passage, but I want to be clear that this Bill only helps at the margins of what will be needed. We are facing a deep recession—possibly the worst for three centuries—and millions of people up and down the country fear for their jobs and for their livelihoods. We will need more than this Bill to help this country weather the coming storm, but for this evening, we welcome the Bill and we will support its passage through the House.

Christopher Pincher Portrait The Minister for Housing (Christopher Pincher) - Hansard
29 Jun 2020, 12:03 a.m.

First, I am sure on behalf of the whole House, I want write into the record my appreciation of the maiden speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for South Ribble (Katherine Fletcher) and for Sedgefield (Paul Howell). My hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble demonstrated some oratorical elasticity in the sense that she was able to draw together Tacitus, Cartimandua and Peter Kay. Historians among us recognise and honour that feat, although I suspect the Whips Office paid greater attention to the fact that she said she might occasionally prefer to be a rebel.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield paid full tribute to Phil Wilson, a strong and fine member of the Opposition Whips Office, and he also paid some tribute to the chap who preceded him; I forget his name. My hon. Friend spoke in prose and gave us some poetry, but whether he speaks in poetry or prose, he will always be welcome in this Chamber and, perhaps one day, even in Trimdon Labour club.

I also wish to congratulate my hon. Friends the Members for Meriden (Saqib Bhatti), for Kensington (Felicity Buchan) and for North Devon (Selaine Saxby) for their support for the measures we are introducing—I shall say some more words about those shortly. I also congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Southampton North (Caroline Nokes) and the entrepreneurial spirit of all at the Rockingham Arms, and look forward to her letter to me on nitrates. I also congratulate my hon. Friends the Members for Wantage (David Johnston), for Arundel and South Downs (Andrew Griffith) and for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake), whose support for the bounce-back loan I am grateful for—I shall pass his message on that to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor. I thank all Members from across the House for this lively, constructive and, I think, supportive debate, and I am grateful to the hon. Member for Croydon North (Steve Reed) for his support for these measures. He is right to say that occasionally we fling some spice and some ginger across the Chamber in our debates, but when it really matters, when the chips are down, we all want the best for our country, which is why we are coming together to support this Bill tonight.

The Bill is good news for our businesses, for jobs and for everyone who is looking forward to enjoying a safe summer as we bounce back from an incredibly difficulty period. We need to tread carefully, but, thanks to the sacrifices and resolve of the British people, and the unprecedented support this Government have provided, we are turning a corner and on the road to recovery. This Bill is pivotal to that economic and social recovery, and I am pleased that the measures it contains to support hard-hit sectors and help businesses adjust to new, safer ways of working have, as I say, been largely welcomed. As my right hon. Friend the Business Secretary said earlier, we listened to and worked with a wide variety of stakeholders and experts, and we are delivering on what they told us through this Bill. So I welcome this opportunity to address important issues raised in this debate, to ensure that the Bill gets Britain back to work safely and that the power, prosperity and opportunities we all want to see are returned to our economic sector.

We know that the hospitality industry is raring to go. Our restaurants, pubs and bars want to make the most of summer trading and welcome back their customers, and it is vital we support them to do that safely. As my right hon. Friend said, this is the third largest employer in our economy, with the pandemic and social distancing measures having serious consequences for its ability to operate. That is why the Bill will temporarily make it easier for businesses, including restaurants, pubs and bars, to obtain a licence, to set up outdoor seating and to sell either food or alcohol, or both, with a fast track to get permission for furniture such as tables and chairs on pavements, thereby enabling them to maximise capacity, within social distancing guidelines. I understand that there may be concerns about potential obstruction of highways, so I wish to reassure the House that we are taking steps to mitigate that. Recommended minimum footway widths and distances required for those with impaired vision and mobility, for example, will be clearly set out using the Department for Transport’s inclusive mobility guidelines, thus striking a balance between the effective use of space and maintaining traffic and thoroughfare. In addition, we will provide councils with enforcement powers and the ability to revoke licences where conditions are breached.

I should emphasise that the changes to outdoor eating and drinking and off sales will be carefully implemented to minimise public nuisance and reduce any crime or disorder. The police already have powers to issue closure notices to a premises in such cases under section 76 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, but we are also building in safeguards to the Bill, such as an expedited review process for alcohol licences, which allows responsible authorities such as the police to quickly alter the licensing conditions granted to premises if necessary. They will be able to revoke permissions granted. I will work with my colleagues in the Home Office and the Local Government Association to ensure that those measures work.

Taken together, the temporary new measures will be a lifeline for our hospitality industry, as are those we propose for planning to restart the construction industry and deliver the homes this country still very much needs.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon - Hansard

In my contribution, I referred to the temporary events notices for breweries. Has the Minister had a chance to look at the provisions that they need to ensure that they can continue to prosper and do well after the covid crisis is over?

Christopher Pincher Portrait Christopher Pincher - Hansard
29 Jun 2020, 12:08 a.m.

The hon. Gentleman mentions breweries. He knows that the Bill largely covers England and England and Wales. It does not cover other areas of our devolved community. However, I can tell him that by ensuring that breweries’ customers open up and can sell alcohol to their customers, we are helping breweries around the country and in Northern Ireland, whether they are big or small.

As hon. Members have heard, activity is picking up in the construction industry, another sector that is an engine of our economy and that is keen to get Britain building again. I pay particular tribute to construction workers up and down our country who worked through the pandemic and the businesses that got their sites back up and running in these difficult circumstances. I am pleased to support their efforts through the safe working charter, which my Department developed with the Home Builders Federation.

However, we know that there is more to do. Home starts and completions are well down on last year, with planning permissions for at least 60,000 homes hanging in the balance. That is why we are speeding up the planning system through the temporary measures in the Bill as part of a wider reform to ensure that it is fit for the 21st century. That means greater flexibility for builders to seek extensions to site working hours to facilitate social distancing, which will support the sector’s safe economic recovery. We want work on construction sites to resume swiftly and safely, but I recognise the potential effect of the change on residents when we are all spending more time at home. Several Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Kensington, raised that point.

I encourage builders to work constructively with local communities and councils to minimise disruption. I want to be clear that councils will retain local discretion over the decision-making process. They also have legal duties regarding statutory nuisance, which continue. They know their areas best and that is why they will continue to have discretion in their local decision-making processes. They are well placed to judge the effect on local businesses and residents, and where there will be an unacceptable impact, they retain the discretion to refuse extended hours.

We are also enabling the extension of planning permissions that have expired since the lockdown began or are about to expire, saving literally hundreds of projects. This is at the request of local authorities and the construction sector. I recognise that there is a risk of schemes being delayed further if existing permissions are extended too long, which is why this will be only a temporary measure. Our extension date of 1 April 2021 strikes the right balance between giving certainty to the sector and ensuring that there are no further undue delays to new developments.

Another significant measure, which will help us double the pace of appeals while maintaining fair decision making, is the proposal to enable the Planning Inspectorate to advance appeals using more than one type of procedure. When we tested this hybrid approach last year, we more than halved the appeal time. This change, backed by all parties in the planning system, will be introduced on a permanent basis. In making these changes, it is important that we bring communities with us, and I am satisfied that, by agreeing through the Bill to temporarily remove the requirement for copies of the London plan to be made available for inspection at premises and on request, and instead enabling inspection free of charge by electronic means, the interests of transparency and accountability will be served.

Richard Fuller Portrait Richard Fuller - Hansard

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for clarifying a point that I raised earlier during the Secretary of State’s speech. I would just like to ask him for clarification on a slightly more detailed point about housing developments outside London, particularly those in my constituency. It is about the process in the Bill for the public themselves having the opportunity to review any application. What changes, if any, might occur to their rights to make representations on applications?

Christopher Pincher Portrait Christopher Pincher - Hansard
29 Jun 2020, midnight

I do not believe that this Bill does anything to disadvantage anybody in their right to fair access to information. Some of the changes that we have already made allow people to take part in planning committees virtually. Not everybody wants to go down to their town hall at 10 o’clock on a wet February evening if they can, quite literally, dial into those planning committees and see what is going on. They have access in a way that they would not ordinarily have.

I make this final point with reference to my hon. Friend’s point and the changes that we are making to the Planning Inspectorate’s processes. This particular proposition was made by Dame Bridget Rosewell as part of her recommendations. It was one of the 22 recommendations that she made, and it will allow planning inspectors to use a variety of tools consecutively to speed up their adjudication on decisions, which is good for everybody involved in the process. The average time has already been cut from 47 weeks to 23. We believe that this mechanism will speed up adjudication on planning decisions even more, and that is to the betterment of all involved.

This Bill could not be more important for reopening our economy, for championing firms large and small and for helping people live their lives again, with safety still paramount. Let us ensure this Bill’s swift passage, as I think all hon. Members have said in their contributions, and get Britain back in business. I commend this Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time; to stand committed to a Committee of the whole House (Order, this day).

Considered in Committee (Order, this day)

Break in Debate

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 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


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.