Earl Howe debates involving the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities during the 2019 Parliament

Wed 13th Sep 2023
Mon 4th Sep 2023
Tue 18th Jul 2023
Thu 13th Jul 2023
Tue 11th Jul 2023
Mon 22nd May 2023
Thu 18th May 2023
Mon 24th Apr 2023
Mon 24th Apr 2023
Tue 18th Apr 2023
Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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My Lords, the percentage of second homes in so many parts of the country has had such a devastating impact on communities. We heard about that in great detail in Committee and had many examples from all sides of the House. We noted that it particularly impacts on rural and coastal communities. I am also concerned about the tax loophole and that so many second home owners avoid paying either council tax or business rates. This is clearly an anomaly and needs to be resolved.

The amendments in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Foster and Lord Shipley, would be an important next step in tackling this. We too welcome the licensing steps already taken but, if we are going to tackle this, we need to go one step further. We look forward to hearing the Minister’s response to the amendments proposed.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, Amendments 247YYE and 288B, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Foster, and spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, bring us to the often sensitive issue of second homes. We recognise that large volumes of second homes or short-term lets can become an issue when they are concentrated in particular areas. That is why the Government have taken decisive action. We committed to introduce a registration scheme for short-term lets in England through this Bill and consulted on the design of the scheme earlier this year. At the same time, we also consulted on proposals for a new short-term let use class with associated permitted development rights. Further announcements on both consultations will be provided in due course.

We introduced higher rates of stamp duty for second properties in 2016 and a new stamp duty surcharge for non-UK residents in 2021, and new measures to strengthen the criteria for holiday lets to be eligible for business rates came into effect in April. Furthermore, this Bill will give councils the discretionary power to apply a council tax premium of up to 100% on second homes.

The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, asked why we are not making further changes in respect of second homes. Through the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill and other measures, the approach we are taking is to boost housing delivery more broadly to make more homes available, including in those areas where there are high concentrations of second homes. Second homes that are additionally let out may fall within the short-term let use class that I mentioned where they meet the definition.

It might be helpful if I say a little more about the Government’s approach to first-time buyers in particular. We recognise the hardship people face when they cannot find a home of their own. Our £11.5 billion affordable homes programme will deliver thousands of affordable homes to rent and buy right across the country. The Government are committed to helping first-time buyers to get on to the housing ladder. We operate a range of other government schemes, including shared ownership and the lifetime ISA and we continually keep options to support first-time buyers under consideration. We are also committed to ensuring that enough homes are built in the places where people and communities need them and our first homes scheme is providing new discounted homes prioritised for local first-time buyers.

The noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, referred to the common perception that some second homeowners may pretend to let out their property in order to benefit from small business rate relief. That is why the Government introduced, from April this year, new criteria for holiday lets to show that they have been let for at least 70 days and have been available for at least 140 days in the previous year. If they are entitled to receive small business rate relief as a holiday let operator, that is perfectly appropriate. If a property cannot demonstrate those criteria, it will be liable for council tax.

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So, as I said, we are very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, for raising these issues again and I look forward to hearing the response of the noble Earl.
Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, in Amendment 248 my noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond brings us back to the use of roads adjacent to pavements that have been granted a licence. I can assure him that there are already clear processes by which a local authority can consider the pedestrianisation of a street, including to facilitate outdoor dining, with vehicular access a relevant consideration in those processes: this is not an issue that will be glossed over. Pavement licences can then be granted if the conditions are seen to be right and, in recent years, we have seen the success of this in practice across the country.

The noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, returned to the question of new powers for local authorities to charge for the use of the pavement. She is probably aware that the Business and Planning Act 2020 does not give local authorities a specific power to charge ongoing rent for the use of the pavement, and the aim behind that measure is to support businesses by making it significantly cheaper to gain a licence, compared to the previous route. The measure fully funds local authorities’ costs for providing this service: we are not looking to impose additional costs on businesses at a time of rising costs.

My noble friend’s Amendments 249 and 250 concern the fees to be charged for pavement licensing. The Government feel very strongly that we must keep costs reasonable and consistent for businesses. At a time when their costs are rising, we should not place additional financial burdens on businesses still recovering from the pandemic. The fee caps in the Bill have not been arrived at by accident but are the result of close work with local authorities, businesses, leaders from the hospitality sector and communities. They reflect the actual costs of processing, monitoring and enforcing pavement licences. I also make the point, on Amendment 250, that the direct attribution of profit to the granting of a licence would not be a simple matter.

As for my noble friend’s proposal in Amendment 253 for deemed rejection rather than a deemed granting of a licence in the event of no decision being made within the determination period, I say to him that it would not be right to punish applicants for delayed local authority decisions. Deemed consent encourages local authorities to make decisions while ensuring that the local and national conditions which would otherwise have applied are applied and can then be enforced, including by the removal of the licence.

My noble friend’s Amendment 251, changing the start of the consultation period to the time at which a receipt has been sent to the applicant, would add an additional and, in our view, unnecessary step and potentially delay the process.

Amendments 252 and 255 would likewise increase both the consultation and determination periods that apply. We have listened carefully to the views of local authorities, communities, businesses and other concerned organisations and believe that our proposals strike the right balance, protecting the ability of everyone to be heard while ensuring that businesses receive a decision in a reasonable timeframe.

I turn to my noble friend’s Amendments 254 and 256 dealing with the free flow of pedestrians and the conditions which may be imposed by a licence. The Business and Planning Act 2020 already requires that local authorities take this into consideration, preventing licences being granted where they would preclude entry on to or passage along the highway, or normal access to premises adjoining the highway. On Amendment 256, the Act already provides powers for local authorities to impose conditions such as these, and we are anecdotally aware of local authorities having done so. As such, we do not consider that specific reference to the discretion for local authorities to do so is needed. These are rightly matters determined locally.

The noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, suggested that the Government’s wording in this area was not quite tight enough. We have made it clear in the pavement licence guidance that, when setting local conditions and determining applications, local authorities should consider the need for barriers to be put in place to separate furniture from the rest of the footway so that people who are visually impaired can navigate around the furniture. As recommended by the RNIB, we have highlighted that best practice involves using measures such as colour contrast and a tap rail for long cane users. However, this will need to be balanced to ensure that any barriers do not inhibit access for other street users, such as people with mobility impairments, if they are creating a further obstacle in the footway.

On Amendment 257, I thank my noble friend for raising the very important issue of accessibility and the impact of pavement licensing on disabled users of the highway. In considering whether to grant a licence, Section 3(7) requires particular regard to be given to the needs of disabled people and to guidance on this matter published by the Secretary of State. That guidance, developed in close collaboration with the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association and the RNIB, includes details of minimum accessibility width considerations for disabled persons. We believe that the determination as to the best way to meet the needs of disabled persons is best made locally, taking account of the specific circumstances for that pavement, particularly since physical barriers may on occasion hinder accessibility, as I have already alluded to.

Finally, Amendment 258, in the name of my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham, would create a national condition banning smoking in pavement licensed areas. Of course I understand very well the strength of feeling expressed by my noble friend and a number of noble Lords on the nuisance caused by the smoking of tobacco. Both my noble friend and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, called for pavement licensing to be made smoke-free. My noble friend stressed the need to protect the interests of non-smokers in particular.

I can tell the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, that the Government fully recognise the importance of this issue for public health, but we also recognise the need to do what is reasonable and proportionate in all the circumstances. Our guidance already makes it clear that pavement licences require businesses to make reasonable provision for seating for non-smokers to ensure choice for customers. It is also clear that ways of meeting this requirement could include clear “No Smoking” signs, the removal of ashtrays in smoke-free areas and a minimum 2-metre distance between smoking and non-smoking areas, wherever possible. Local authorities are also able to consider setting their own conditions, where appropriate, and where local decision-makers believe it is reasonable to do so. We are aware that a number of councils across the country have put in place local conditions with the effect that noble Lords are calling for. As my noble friend Lord Naseby rightly said, it is perfectly possible for councils to do this, and we think it is better for decisions of this sort to be taken locally so that individual circumstances are taken into account.

I recognise the intention behind my noble friend’s amendment, which is a benign intention. However, I think he would concede that this is an issue wholly different in kind from that of planning fees, where it is incumbent on government to ensure financial fairness across the country. We consider it right that this is a decision made locally, taking into account the representations received, rather than imposed nationally.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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Before my noble friend sits down, he has said that this is a decision best taken locally. But that is not what the Local Government Association wants—it wants it to be taken nationally.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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Well, my Lords, the Government will continue to listen to the Local Government Association very carefully in this connection. I can only say that we are not persuaded yet that this move would be the right one, having consulted extensively with all stakeholders involved.

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Earl Howe Excerpts
Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab)
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My Lords, this has been a really important group for us to debate. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale, for introducing it with his important Amendment 191, which I was very pleased to support. I have two amendments in this group: Amendment 275, under which a Minister must publish a green prosperity plan—I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, for her support on this—and Amendment 283, which defines adaption to and mitigation of climate change. There is a specific reason why I have put that amendment down, which I will come to.

My Amendment 275 says that:

“Within one year of this Act being passed, a Minister … must publish a Green Prosperity Plan”,


specifically to

“decarbonise the economy … create jobs, and … boost energy”.

This amendment and the others in the group are about how we consider climate change and the environmental and energy crises that we have been facing as a country. We need to look seriously at how we are going to dramatically reduce our emissions by 2030. We also believe that climate justice should be a priority. It is important that we can all agree on what action has to be taken to accelerate the benefits of nature restoration and recovery alongside this.

We believe that there should be a national mission to upgrade the energy efficiency of every home that needs it. This will help to lower people’s bills and reduce emissions. We must make sure that, if we are to change the way we heat our homes and how we manage our gas, electricity and oil, we have a different system that supports the reduction of emissions and looks at ways to meet our net-zero targets. We see this as an opportunity to create many thousands of new jobs and help the country to rebuild the economy. It gives us the opportunity to invest in manufacturing and factories—for example, to build batteries for electric vehicles—to develop a thriving hydrogen industry and to increase the manufacture of wind turbines here in the UK. We see this as a huge opportunity, and we also believe the UK should have the ambition to be a world-leading clean energy superpower.

My second amendment, Amendment 283, seeks to insert a new “Interpretation” clause, concerning the interpretation in the Bill of adapting to climate change and adaption to climate change. The reason for this is that, in the Bill, the words “adaptation” and “adaption” are both used. It is very important that there is no confusion about what is meant by adaption and what is meant by adaptation—they are two different terms but they seem to have been used fluidly within the Bill. Amendment 283 tries to clarify that. It may well be that the Government do not want to accept my amendment, but they might want to look at the wording in the Bill and see whether clarification could be brought through in another way.

Adaptation is incredibly important as we go forward. We know we have a strong framework for emissions reduction and planning for climate risks, as set up by the Climate Change Act 2008. However, we still need better resourcing and funding of adaptation, as it is going to be a critical part of supporting the country as we try to tackle the impacts we are seeing—very regularly now—of climate change. We think it is unacceptable not to do that, so we would like to see a clearer understanding of what is required for what we call “adaptation”—though it may well be called “adaption”. This needs to come together in the Bill in a clear and understandable way that will bring about the investment we need in this area.

This brings me to what the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, has brought forward in his amendment on wildfires; clearly that is an area where adaptation is going to be terribly important, as it will be with flooding—and we will debate that later in the Bill. One thing we know is that wildfires have brought an increasing threat to a wide range of interests across the country. We need a co-ordinated approach, and the noble Earl, in introducing his amendment, was very clear about why this was needed. We know that we have to mitigate the impacts of wildfires on people, property, habitats, livestock, natural capital, wildlife and so on, as the noble Earl explained. We also know from the recent terrible wildfires we have seen—such as that on Saddleworth Moor, as the noble Earl mentioned—that it is going to take decades for those areas to recover. We have to get systems in place to tell us how we manage that, how we avoid it and what we do when it happens. This is a levelling-up Bill, and the impacts of climate change often have an unequal effect on different citizens in this country. As part of the levelling-up agenda, we need to address this.

Finally, that brings me to the incredibly important amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale, to which I was very pleased to add my name. The noble Lord, Lord Deben, talked passionately and eloquently about the importance of how we deliver this and how vital it is that we are able to do this. The noble Lord’s amendment would be an important step on the way to achieving this. If the noble Lord wishes to push it to a vote and test the opinion of the House, he will have our strong support.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, in this group of amendments we return to the crucially important issues surrounding climate change and the green agenda, about which we have heard strong views, and rightly so. Climate change presents clear risks to our environment and our way of life, which is why I am not embarrassed to claim that the Government have led the world in their ambition to reach net zero, and why we are committed to fostering the changes needed to reach that goal. That is the delivery that my noble friend Lord Deben spoke of.

However, what is crucial is that we do this in a way that is effective without being unnecessarily disruptive. That is where, I am afraid, I must take issue with Amendment 191 in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Ravensdale and Lord Teverson, the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, and my noble friend Lord Lansley. For the same reason, I need to resist Amendment 283 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock. I do so with regret.

The intention of these proposed new clauses—to set more specific legal obligations which bear upon national policy, plan-makers and those making planning decisions—is not at all the focus of my criticism. We all want to achieve the golden thread that the noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale, referred to. The problem is their likely effect, which would be to trigger a slew of litigation in these areas. That in turn could serve to hinder the action that we need to get plans in place to safeguard the environment that we all wish to protect. For example, Amendment 283 would mean that the Bill’s existing obligations on plans to address climate change mitigation and adaptation would have to be interpreted in the context of very high-level national objectives. That would not be a straightforward thing to do, because high-level objectives do not, in most cases, provide clear direction at the level of an individual district.

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Finally, it was important that the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, drew attention to the huge problem of decarbonising domestic heating, as this is a huge challenge for the Government going forward.
Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, Amendments 191A, 191B and 286 all deal with the principle of healthy homes. I am the first to say that the debates we have had on this subject are a reminder, if one were ever needed, of the key importance of healthy living environments. Much of the case put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, and others centres on the idea of having fixed standards in this whole area. On that, I hope he will welcome the news that the Government have listened. Where fixed standards are the best approach, we are taking action.

For example, we are currently reviewing the decent homes standard, which sets minimum standards regarding the physical condition of social rented homes. We have also committed to introducing the decent homes standard to the private rented sector for the first time at the earliest legislative opportunity. On building standards, we will consult on a full technical specification for the future homes standard and then introduce the necessary legislation in 2024 ahead of implementation in 2025. I hope that that combination of actions will be music to the ears of the noble Lord, Lord Crisp.

The noble Lord, Lord Stunell, referred to the mission statement in the levelling up White Paper. The measures we are taking should reassure him, I hope, that those missions are still a top priority.

In Committee, I warned about the risks of introducing undue prescriptiveness in this area. That is why I also hope noble Lords recognise that, in the planning system, a degree of flexibility is often needed to reflect the great variety of issues individual schemes may pose. With the best will in the world, any set of prescriptive and rigid rules makes no allowance for such individual circumstances.

Having said that, I want to re-emphasise the added weight that this Bill will give to both national and local policies for controlling development. How our national policies can support healthy living is most definitely something that we will wish to engage and reflect on as we come to update them.

That leads me to a further point. We are currently consulting on proposals to allow permitted development rights, with existing prior approvals on design or external appearance, to include consideration of design codes where they are in place locally.

I am very sympathetic to the intentions behind these amendments, but we are concerned that they would create a legal framework which cuts directly across the actions I have referred to. At worst, they could even hinder progress in pursuing healthy homes by creating uncertainty about the obligations which apply, with the associated risks of legal challenge and delay. It is those concerns which prevent us being able to support these amendments.

Turning to Amendment 198, I listened with care and a large measure of agreement to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, on this topic. I remind the House that health and well-being is already a key consideration in the planning system, and changes made through this Bill will strengthen this. The National Planning Policy Framework states that plans should set out a

“strategy for the pattern, scale and design quality of places”.

The framework is clear that:

“Planning policies and decisions should aim to achieve … places which … enable and support healthy lifestyles”,


including through the provision of open spaces, sport and recreation facilities and layouts that encourage walking and cycling. In other words, these are the key building blocks to better health the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, referred to.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark indicated his concern that that does not seem to be enough. In response to that concern, changes through this Bill will mean that, in future, planning applications must be decided in accordance with the development plan and any applicable national development management policies, unless material considerations strongly indicate otherwise. It would no longer be enough for other considerations merely to indicate otherwise. That has two effects. First, it will make sure that locally produced policies have a strengthened role in planning decisions. Secondly, national development management policies will give national policies statutory status in planning decisions for the first time.

On the design of buildings, the national model design code provides guidance on the production of local design codes, including consideration of health and well-being. The Bill requires every local planning authority to produce a design code for its area. They will have full weight in the planning decision-making.

Furthermore, we have looked for ways of achieving further join-up. To that end, Active Travel England was established as a statutory consultee within the planning system as of June. It is responsible for making walking, wheeling and cycling the preferred choice for everyone to get around. Therefore, although I fully understand the essence of this amendment, we believe that the status of these considerations in the planning system, as enhanced by the Bill, is already provided for.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale, for his engagement on embodied carbon in buildings. The Government agree that reducing these emissions is crucial. I listened with great care as well to the noble Lord, Lord Best. I completely agree with both noble Lords that, to reduce the embodied carbon of buildings, we must decarbonise every part of the supply chain in their construction, from the manufacture and transport of materials to the construction processes on site.

Across government and industry, a great deal of work is already contributing to a reduction in the embodied carbon across those construction supply chains. The Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy and the transport decarbonisation plan, for example, set out how large sectors of the economy will decarbonise. The England Trees action plan looks to increase the production of timber, which can be used to replace higher-carbon materials in construction when it is safe to do so.

As the noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale, is aware, the Government intend to consult this year on our approach to measuring and reducing embodied carbon in new buildings. This will be informed by in-depth research, and I am pleased that members of the Part Z team sit on the steering group for that research. I reassure the noble Lord that the Government are listening to calls for a change to the building regulations and will continue to engage with him as policy develops. However, it is vital that we understand the impacts of potential interventions—which will be the focus of the consultation—before any commitment to a specific intervention. I know that the noble Lord takes that point.

Amendment 282H, in the names of the noble Baronesses, Lady Hayman and Lady Sheehan, and my noble friend Lord Lucas, is on solar panels. Renewable energy, such as that generated from solar panels, is a key part of our strategy to reach net zero—I hope that that is accepted. However, as I argued in Committee, and as I think the noble Baroness recognises, not all homes are suitable for solar panels. For instance, some homes are heavily shaded due to nearby buildings or trees. So I cannot go along with her wish to make solar panels the automatic fix in the building of new homes—it is too inflexible.

Our approach to achieving higher standards remains technology-neutral, to provide developers with the flexibility to innovate and choose the most appropriate and cost-effective solutions for their particular sites. The underpinning to that approach is that, in 2021, the Government introduced an uplift in energy-efficiency standards that newly constructed homes must meet. We expect that, to comply with this uplift, most developers will choose to install solar panels on new homes or use other low-carbon technology such as heat pumps. They have to achieve those standards somehow.

As well as delivering a meaningful reduction in carbon emissions, this uplift provides a stepping stone to the future homes standard, which we will consult on this year ahead of implementation in 2025. The future homes standard will go further, ensuring that new homes will produce at least 75% less CO2 emissions than those built to 2013 standards, which represents a considerable improvement in energy efficiency standards for new homes. Introducing an amendment to mandate solar panels would therefore be largely redundant and would risk the installation of solar panels on inappropriate houses, as I said. So, taken in the round, we think that our approach is a great deal simpler and better, and I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able not to move her amendment when we reach it.

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Moved by
191AA: Clause 89, page 96, line 34, at end insert—
“(9A) The spatial development strategy must take account of any local nature recovery strategy, under section 104 of the Environment Act 2021, that relates to an area in Greater London, including in particular—(a) the areas identified in the strategy as areas which—(i) are, or could become, of particular importance for biodiversity, or(ii) are areas where the recovery or enhancement of biodiversity could make a particular contribution to other environmental benefits,(b) the priorities set out in the strategy for recovering or enhancing biodiversity, and(c) the proposals set out in the strategy as to potential measures relating to those priorities.”Member's explanatory statement
This amendment requires the spatial development strategy under Part 8 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 to take account of local nature recovery strategies that relate to Greater London.
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Moved by
191C: Schedule 7, page 335, line 33, at end insert—
“(8A) A joint spatial development strategy must take account of any local nature recovery strategy that relates to any part of the joint strategy area, including in particular—(a) the areas identified in the strategy as areas which—(i) are, or could become, of particular importance for biodiversity, or (ii) are areas where the recovery or enhancement of biodiversity could make a particular contribution to other environmental benefits,(b) the priorities set out in the strategy for recovering or enhancing biodiversity, and(c) the proposals set out in the strategy as to potential measures relating to those priorities.”Member's explanatory statement
This amendment requires a joint spatial development strategy to take account of any local nature recovery strategy that relates to any part of the joint strategy area concerned.
Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD)
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My Lords, I wish to state our strong support on these Benches for this amendment; indeed, had I been confident in advance that I was going to be able to be here to speak this afternoon, I would have added my name to it.

In 2017, I put down a similar amendment to what was then the Bus Services Bill. The similar issue was one that we raised from these Benches in Committee. This levelling up Bill gives us an opportunity to halt and reverse the decline in bus services outside London, which has been evidenced since the so-called deregulation of bus services in the 1980s. I will not repeat the points made by noble Baronesses, but it is clear to us all that urgent and radical action is needed to stem the crisis.

The problem in 2017 with the Bus Services Act was that the Government could not bring themselves to concede that deregulation had played a key role in the decline of bus services. The Act allowed franchising and other forms of additional control for local authorities but only for larger authorities; it did not trust smaller authorities to do this. With support, there is no reason why they should not be able to do this. Further, the Act did not allow local authorities to set up their own bus companies, which is totally contrary to the evidence. Some of the very best bus companies in Britain are those heritage bus companies that are still owned and run by local authorities.

Let me give one example of the sort of thing that might happen if local authorities had this power. If a local authority of modest size finds that its local commercial company is going to cut the vital bus services that enable links between the town centre and the local further education college, it might set up its own bus company specifically to enable young people going to that college, as well as shoppers going into the next town, to use those services—it does not always have to be on an enormous scale. Who understands better than the local council what will work in local neighbourhoods? The local council is the organisation that understands local traffic patterns, the best routes, where to find most people with no access to a car and so on. If we truly want to level up, we have to improve bus services, which are disproportionately used by the oldest, the youngest and the poorest in our society, in order to enable them to access work, education, health and other vital social services. I support the amendment.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, for introducing her amendment. I am happy to say that the sentiment behind it is one with which we agree. What is more, the kind of powers that the noble Baroness is seeking already exist.

All local authorities are required to improve their local bus services through the delivery of a bus service improvement plan, BSIP, to qualify for government funding. Local authorities must decide whether to deliver improvements on the ground via a statutory enhanced partnership with their local bus operators or to pursue a franchising assessment that would allow them to operate their buses through local service contracts, in the same way that Transport for London operates buses in the capital. The Transport Act 2000, brought in by the last Labour Government, provides automatic access to franchising powers for all mayoral combined authorities in England.

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Lord Bradshaw Portrait Lord Bradshaw (LD)
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My Lords, does the Minister agree that one of the major problems with the bus industry is the lack of adequate reimbursement of concessionary fares? The burden of reimbursement has fallen on local authorities, which have virtually no money. This is a very important point, and it undermines the viability of the bus industry.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, but I think several factors have impacted on the use of buses and the ability of local authorities to run satisfactory services. I shall certainly ensure that the point he has made is registered in the Department for Transport, and I am grateful to him.

Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords who have taken part in this debate and thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, for co-signing the amendment. She referred to the link between bus services and people’s economic activity, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, referred to the link with education and skills training; both are very important points. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, for her support in this. She also said that the Bill gives us the opportunity to reverse the decline in bus services, and I genuinely believe that this is the quickest way to go forward with that.

It requires a deal of trust between the Government and local authorities, and on many occasions in the debates on the Bill we have had evidence to suggest that we need to demonstrate the new relationship needed between the Government and local government before we can go forward and make real progress on devolution. To me, good public transport is axiomatic with levelling up. We have to have it to make levelling up work at all.

I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Howe, for his usual thorough reply, but there is clearly a disconnect between what powers the Government think they have given to local government and what local government is experiencing. The councillor I referred to was the transport portfolio holder for Hertfordshire County Council. He clearly does not think it has the powers to deal with transport in the way that he would want to. Something is clearly not right somewhere with all this. I understand the points about BSIPs and statutory enhanced partnerships, but it seems that the powers are conditional on approval from the Government, and we would like a relationship of trust in which these powers are given to any council transport authority that wishes to have them.

The noble Lord mentioned the important issue of fares. Funding comes into this, of course. The cuts to rural services bus grants, for example, make the provision of bus services in those areas very difficult.

For all those reasons, I am not convinced that we have a clear link to local authorities setting up their own bus companies or franchising services themselves, so I would like to test the opinion of the House.

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Moved by
91: After Schedule 12, insert the following new Schedule—
“ScheduleRegulations under Chapter 1 of Part 3 or Part 6: restrictions on devolved authoritiesNo power to make provision outside devolved competence
1 (1) No provision may be made by a devolved authority acting alone in regulations under Chapter 1 of Part 3 or Part 6 unless the provision is within the devolved competence of the devolved authority.(2) See paragraphs 5 to 7 for the meaning of “devolved competence”.Requirement for consent where it would otherwise be required
2 (1) The consent of a Minister of the Crown is required before any provision is made by the Welsh Ministers acting alone in regulations under Chapter 1 of Part 3 or Part 6 so far as that provision, if contained in an Act of Senedd Cymru, would require the consent of a Minister of the Crown.(2) The consent of the Secretary of State is required before any provision is made by a Northern Ireland department acting alone in regulations under Chapter 1 of Part 3 or Part 6 so far as that provision would, if contained in a Bill for an Act of the Northern Ireland Assembly, result in the Bill requiring the consent of the Secretary of State.(3) Sub-paragraph (1) or (2) does not apply if—(a) the provision could be contained in subordinate legislation made otherwise than under this Act by the Welsh Ministers acting alone or (as the case may be) a Northern Ireland devolved authority acting alone, and(b) no such consent would be required in that case.(4) The consent of a Minister of the Crown is required before any provision is made by a devolved authority acting alone in regulations under Chapter 1 of Part 3 or Part 6 so far as that provision, if contained in—(a) subordinate legislation made otherwise than under this Act by the devolved authority, or(b) subordinate legislation not falling within paragraph (a) and made otherwise than under this Act by a Northern Ireland devolved authority acting alone,would require the consent of a Minister of the Crown.(5) Sub-paragraph (4) does not apply if—(a) the provision could be contained in—(i) an Act of the Scottish Parliament, an Act of Senedd Cymru or (as the case may be) an Act of the Northern Ireland Assembly, or (ii) different subordinate legislation of the kind mentioned in sub-paragraph (4)(a) or (b) and of a devolved authority acting alone or (as the case may be) other person acting alone, and(b) no such consent would be required in that case.Requirement for joint exercise where it would otherwise be required
3 (1) No regulations may be made under Chapter 1 of Part 3 or Part 6 by the Scottish Ministers, so far as they contain provision which relates to a matter in respect of which a power to make subordinate legislation otherwise than under this Act is exercisable by the Scottish Ministers acting jointly with a Minister of the Crown, unless the regulations are, to that extent, made jointly with the Secretary of State.(2) No regulations may be made under Chapter 1 of Part 3 or Part 6 by the Welsh Ministers, so far as they contain provision which relates to a matter in respect of which a power to make subordinate legislation otherwise than under this Act is exercisable by the Welsh Ministers acting jointly with a Minister of the Crown, unless the regulations are, to that extent, made jointly with the Secretary of State.(3) No regulations may be made under Chapter 1 of Part 3 or Part 6 by a Northern Ireland department, so far as they contain provision which relates to a matter in respect of which a power to make subordinate legislation otherwise than under this Act is exercisable by—(a) a Northern Ireland department acting jointly with a Minister of the Crown, or(b) another Northern Ireland devolved authority acting jointly with a Minister of the Crown,unless the regulations are, to that extent, made jointly with the Secretary of State.(4) Sub-paragraph (1), (2) or (3) does not apply if the provision could be contained in—(a) an Act of the Scottish Parliament, an Act of Senedd Cymru or (as the case may be) an Act of the Northern Ireland Assembly without the need for the consent of a Minister of the Crown, or(b) different subordinate legislation made otherwise than under this Act by—(i) the Scottish Ministers acting alone,(ii) the Welsh Ministers acting alone, or(iii) (as the case may be), a Northern Ireland devolved authority acting alone.Requirement for consultation where it would otherwise be required
4 (1) No regulations may be made under Chapter 1 of Part 3 or Part 6 by the Welsh Ministers acting alone, so far as they contain provision which, if contained in an Act of Senedd Cymru, would require consultation with a Minister of the Crown, unless the regulations are, to that extent, made after consulting with the Minister of the Crown.(2) No regulations may be made under Chapter 1 of Part 3 or Part 6 by the Scottish Ministers acting alone, so far as they contain provision which relates to a matter in respect of which a power to make subordinate legislation otherwise than under this Act is exercisable by the Scottish Ministers after consulting with a Minister of the Crown, unless the regulations are, to that extent, made after consulting with the Minister of the Crown.(3) No regulations may be made under Chapter 1 of Part 3 or Part 6 by the Welsh Ministers acting alone, so far as they contain provision which relates to a matter in respect of which a power to make subordinate legislation otherwise than under this Act is exercisable by the Welsh Ministers after consulting with a Minister of the Crown, unless the regulations are, to that extent, made after consulting with the Minister of the Crown.(4) No regulations may be made under Chapter 1 of Part 3 or Part 6 by a Northern Ireland department acting alone, so far as they contain provision which relates to a matter in respect of which a power to make subordinate legislation otherwise than under this Act is exercisable by a Northern Ireland department after consulting with a Minister of the Crown, unless the regulations are, to that extent, made after consulting with the Minister of the Crown.(5) Sub-paragraph (2), (3) or (4) does not apply if—(a) the provision could be contained in an Act of the Scottish Parliament, an Act of Senedd Cymru or (as the case may be) an Act of the Northern Ireland Assembly, and(b) there would be no requirement for the consent of a Minister of the Crown, or for consultation with a Minister of the Crown, in that case.(6) Sub-paragraph (2), (3) or (4) does not apply if—(a) the provision could be contained in different subordinate legislation made otherwise than under this Act by—(i) the Scottish Ministers acting alone,(ii) the Welsh Ministers acting alone, or(iii) (as the case may be), a Northern Ireland devolved authority acting alone, and(b) there would be no requirement for the consent of a Minister of the Crown, or for consultation with a Minister of the Crown, in that case.Meaning of devolved competence
5 A provision is within the devolved competence of the Scottish Ministers if—(a) it would be within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament if it were contained in an Act of that Parliament, or(b) it is provision which could be made in other subordinate legislation by the Scottish Ministers.6 A provision is within the devolved competence of the Welsh Ministers if—(a) it would be within the legislative competence of Senedd Cymru if it were contained in an Act of the Senedd (including any provision that could be made only with the consent of a Minister of the Crown), or(b) it is provision which could be made in other subordinate legislation by the Welsh Ministers.7 A provision is within the devolved competence of a Northern Ireland department if—(a) the provision—(i) would be within the legislative competence of the Northern Ireland Assembly, if contained in an Act of that Assembly, and(ii) would not, if contained in a Bill for an Act of the Northern Ireland Assembly, result in the Bill requiring the consent of the Secretary of State,(b) the provision—(i) amends or repeals Northern Ireland legislation, and(ii) would be within the legislative competence of the Northern Ireland Assembly, if contained in an Act of that Assembly, and would, if contained in a Bill for an Act of the Northern Ireland Assembly, result in the Bill requiring the consent of the Secretary of State, or (c) the provision is provision which could be made in other subordinate legislation by any Northern Ireland devolved authority.Interpretation
8 In this Schedule—“Minister of the Crown” has the same meaning as in the Ministers of the Crown Act 1975;“Northern Ireland devolved authority” means the First Minister and deputy First Minister in Northern Ireland acting jointly, a Northern Ireland Minister or a Northern Ireland department;“subordinate legislation” has the meaning given in section 20(1) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.”Member's explanatory statement
This amendment inserts a new Schedule (Regulations under Chapter 1 of Part 3 or Part 6: restrictions on devolved authorities) which contains various provision about the restrictions on devolved authorities when making regulations under Chapter 1 of Part 3 or Part 6.
Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, I shall speak also to the many other government amendments in this group. Let me start by expressing my thanks to noble Lords who have debated and laid amendments relating to devolved matters. The government amendments in this group reflect the discussions with the devolved Administrations in respect of this part of the Bill and speak to the substance of the other amendments that have been laid on this topic.

The Government’s amendments provide the devolved Administrations with concurrent powers to replace strategic environmental assessments and environmental impact assessments with environmental outcomes reports in devolved areas, and make corresponding amendments to Part 3 in respect of planning data associated with environmental outcomes reports.

In providing concurrent powers across the four nations, the Bill would allow each Administration to tailor environmental assessment to their needs, while retaining the ability to manage interaction and interoperability going forward. The amendments do not introduce a requirement for devolved Administrations to bring forward environmental outcomes reports, but they would see to it that each Administration has the necessary powers to ensure the existing system can continue to function as regimes reform over time.

In light of the growing need for collaboration across the four Administrations on pressing matters like climate change and energy security, and to ensure that the UK remains an attractive place to invest and deliver major infrastructure projects, the UK Government feel that there are significant benefits to maintaining an effective framework of powers across the UK. The current clauses contain a limited power for the UK Government to legislate in areas of devolved competence where the devolved Administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have been consulted. We have been clear since introduction that this was a placeholder clause to reduce the risk of a harmful legislative gap while negotiations with the devolved Administrations were under way. Therefore, these amendments also amend the powers in Part 6 to ensure that the Secretary of State will need the consent of Wales and Northern Ireland where EOR regulations affect matters of their devolved legislative competence.

At this stage, following discussions with the Scottish Government, the provisions for Scotland do not include this same consent mechanism for matters relating to devolved legislative competence, and the UK Government retain the ability to legislate in areas of devolved competence for Scotland, subject to a duty to consult. It is absolutely vital for the UK Government to preserve, in limited circumstances, the ability to legislate UK-wide to ensure assessments can continue to work across our different regimes. Unfortunately, the Scottish Government currently do not wish to support the necessary legislative framework for this to function. We are continuing to engage with the Scottish Government and stand ready to bring forward further amendments once these discussions have run their course.

As is currently the case, the Government would only ever legislate in areas of devolved competence where absolutely necessary, and only after careful consideration and consultation with the Scottish Government. I therefore hope the House will support these amendments and beg to move Amendment 91 in my name.

Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick Portrait Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick (Lab)
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My Lords, I rise to speak in favour of Amendments 111, 115, 120 and 121, in my name, which relate directly to devolved competence. I thank the Minister and his ministerial colleague, the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, for their very helpful meeting last week. Obviously, as I indicated to them, I still have residual concerns, particularly in relation to Northern Ireland, about which I will ask a couple of questions at the conclusion.

As the Minister said, Clause 148 requires the UK Government to consult with Ministers of devolved Administrations should EOR regulations fall within their competence. This is a weak requirement which could lead to EOR regulations being imposed on devolved nations without the consent of their Administrations. This provides a further risk of environmental regression, should EOR regulations impose weaker requirements than those put in place by the devolved Governments.

The wording of Clause 148 is particularly problematic for Northern Ireland as it requires the Secretary of State only to consult with a Northern Ireland department, potentially bypassing elected representatives in Northern Ireland. As a former Minister in the Northern Ireland Executive, I fully recognise and acknowledge that this requirement to vest powers in a department rather than a Minister goes back to 1921, when the original Northern Ireland Parliament was established. I will be asking that both the Minister and his ministerial colleagues have immediate and ongoing discussions with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and his Ministers to see if they can find an all-encompassing way of addressing that and ensuring that power is restored to Ministers, even though we do not have a devolved Administration at the moment. That is not the fault of this provision, but I do recall that this was problematic when we were Ministers in the Executive, because it is unlike what happens in other Administrations.

As the Minister has said, in Committee on 18 May the Minister stated that the UK Government were having discussions with the devolved Governments. I think the Minister has already underlined today how these powers should operate. These discussions and the continued concern expressed by parliamentarians should lead to a swift amendment of the Bill to uphold devolved competencies and prevent environmental regressions. Amendments 111, 115 and 120 in my name would achieve this by requiring Ministers to secure the consent of a devolved Administration before setting those EOR regulations within the competence of that Administration, rather than merely consult it. Amendment 121 would also require consent for EOR regulations to be given by Ministers of the Northern Ireland Executive, rather than by a Northern Ireland department, providing a closer link between elected representatives in Northern Ireland and the regulations.

I recognise that the Government have tabled a series of amendments to respond to the concerns raised in Committee and by the amendments I have tabled, but the government amendments do not go far enough. No concession, for example, has been made on Scotland. I realise from the supplementary document we received today from officials that Wales seems to be relatively content, but there are still problems in relation to Northern Ireland. I repeat: what happens in the case of Northern Ireland, where we do not have a devolved Government and Assembly in place? Who do those consultations take place with, and who is the decision-maker in that instance? On the wider power vested in a Northern Ireland department, rather than a Minister, will the Minister undertake to look at this with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and to address the anomaly presented by the legislation back in 1921 to ensure that is corrected, and to vest power in Ministers?

In conclusion, I honestly believe that the Government should resolve the inconsistencies created by this suite of government amendments and fully adopt the approach proposed in my amendments. It constitutes a similar approach to all the devolved settlements and the democratic choices made by the people of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab)
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My Lords, I want briefly to comment on the amendments in the name of my noble friend Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick. She talked about her concerns about Clause 148 and its weak requirement regarding the devolved nations. She particularly talked about the fact that it is problematic for Northern Ireland, and we note that there are concerns about the regression risk that this part of the Bill could bring. She also mentioned the fact that the Scottish Government have expressed their opposition to the Bill on those grounds. In Committee on 18 May, the noble Earl stated that the UK Government were having

“discussions with the devolved Governments on how these powers should operate”.—[Official Report, 18/5/23; col. 447.]

We believe that the amendments tabled by my noble friend help to resolve the concerns expressed by requiring Ministers to secure the consent of a devolved Administration before setting EOR regulations within the competence of that Administration, rather than simply consulting them. We very much support the amendments in the name of my noble friend.

It is worth pointing out that this means that there has still been no movement regarding Scotland, and it would be good to know that those discussions are still ongoing to try to make some progress.

A concern to mention briefly on the government amendments is around those that relate to the habitats regulations. The Bill allows for changes to the existing regulations with only a vague non-regression commitment in Clause 147. I just point out that this is why I have Amendment 106 in group 5, which creates a robust non-regression test, and that is one reason I tabled that—just to tie the two groups together, so that the noble Earl has some frame of reference on where we are coming from on that. Having said that, if he can provide further clarity on the issues raised by my noble friend, I am sure we will be very grateful.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, I am, as ever, grateful to noble Lords who have spoken and, in particular, to the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, for the way in which she spoke to her amendments and for her experience in devolved matters generally. She will have heard that we consider that the Government’s amendments speak to the substance of her amendments and, in fact, go further in extending the powers to make EOR regulations for all of the devolved Administrations.

The Government consider it crucial that these powers are made available across the United Kingdom to allow for continued close co-operation and interoperability between environmental assessment regimes across the UK. Securing this ability to work together across the different jurisdictions reduces the risk of harmful divergence. This is particularly crucial for areas such as offshore wind, where minimising delay and cost is vital if we are to meet our environmental commitments and achieve energy security.

The noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, spoke of these powers being imposed on devolved Administrations. The first point to make in that context is that there is no obligation or time limit under the powers for the devolved Administrations to use the powers that Part 6 would grant them. The powers would be exercisable at the discretion of the devolved Administrations if they chose to use them. However, these are powers that would allow devolved Administrations broad scope to implement their own new system of environmental assessment.

In addition, the model would mean that, where assessment is needed under both EOR and an existing EIA/SEA regime, whether in Scotland, England, Wales or Northern Ireland, the development or plan need satisfy only one of the regimes, avoiding the need for duplication. Without the ability to adopt EOR, the UK Government and the devolved Administrations would have no interoperability and gradually increasing divergence, and that could mean certain projects or plans requiring assessment under two separate regimes far into the future, which, as is obvious, could lead to a chilling effect on development of certain types and in certain locations, as well as cross-border plans. Devolved Administrations adopting these powers would not completely remove the risk of divergence, as the current powers model would allow devolved Administrations complete discretion on what their system of environmental assessment looks like, but it would retain the potential for continued alignment where this is considered beneficial.

The noble Baroness raised a number of points and questions about Northern Ireland, and I shall ensure that these are taken up at departmental level and that the department keeps in touch with her about the action being taken. I just pick up the issue she raised of the absence of an Executive in Northern Ireland. In the current situation, with the Assembly not sitting, Northern Ireland is clearly not in a position to provide legislative consent for the Bill, so in respect of Part 6, the UK Government propose to extend these powers to Northern Ireland on the same basis as that agreed with the Welsh Government. This is not a decision that the UK Government have taken lightly, but we believe it is the right approach in these circumstances, as it preserves the opportunity for reform for a future Executive in a way that preserves the unique situation on the island of Ireland.

Legislating in this way provides Northern Ireland with safeguards on the use of these powers that would ensure that the consent of relevant Northern Ireland departments was required if the UK Government wished to use the powers in Part 6 to legislate for matters within devolved legislative competence. Not extending the powers in this way would mean the loss of these safeguards, as well as the loss of the opportunity for the Northern Ireland Executive to benefit from these powers once the Executive have been restored.

I am conscious that the noble Baroness has sought to introduce amendments for each of the devolved Administrations. While the Government share the noble Baroness’s view that it would be best for each Administration to be placed on an even footing, at this stage the amendments provide the Scottish Government with concurrent powers, but on slightly different terms from those of Wales and Northern Ireland. However, we are continuing to engage with the Scottish Government on this issue and remain open to extending the same provisions to the Scottish Government to place each Administration on the same footing, should they agree to that. On the basis of discussions continuing, I hope that the noble Baroness will not feel the need to press her amendments.

Amendment 91 agreed.
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Moved by
95: Clause 132, page 161, line 5, leave out “, or giving a direction under this Part,”
Member's explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the amendment in the Minister’s name to Clause 133 at line 18 on page 162.
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Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, in moving Amendment 95, I will speak also to Amendments 97, 287 and 293, which address recommendations in the report of your Lordships’ Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee on community land auctions—CLAs. I declare my interest as a landowner.

These procedural amendments will change the power of direction in Clause 133(1)(a), which allows the Secretary of State to direct that a local planning authority preparing a local plan may put in place a CLA arrangement. We are changing this, so that local planning authorities wishing to pilot a CLA arrangement should instead be designated by CLA regulations. These regulations will be subject to the negative resolution procedure to allow for an appropriate level of parliamentary scrutiny of the selection of local planning authorities to participate in community land auction arrangements. We agree with the argument put forward by the DPRRC that the negative resolution procedure is more appropriate than the affirmative, because it will not lead to the delay of the implementation of CLA arrangements.

The policy intent of these amendments is to allow for the appropriate level of parliamentary scrutiny over the selection of prospective piloting authorities. Any potential piloting authorities will need to actively volunteer to participate in CLA arrangements; they will not be forced to do so. These amendments remove any reference to a power for the DLUHC Secretary of State to direct in Part 5, and make associated changes to Clause 231 to ensure that the negative resolution procedure will apply to the new regulation-making power in Clause 133(1). I beg to move.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, I will speak to Amendments 96 and 98 in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Lansley.

In answering a question last week, the Minister, my noble friend Lady Scott, said that the levelling-up Bill was a large one; she gave that as a reason for dropping the repeal of the Vagrancy Act. My amendment directly addresses that concern by deleting eight pages from the Bill: those introducing the untested concept of community land auctions, parachuted into the Bill at a late stage in the other place, hot from the bubbling vat of a think tank, without the normal process of cooling and maturing.

I say again how grateful I am to Ministers for their patience in discussions on CLAs and for the very comprehensive six-page letter received yesterday, addressing some of the concerns that I have spoken about.

One would have thought that a novel concept such as this one would have been subjected to some consultation before it appeared in the Bill: first, with those who have to operate it—namely, the planning authorities—and, secondly, with those who represent the landowners, who have expressed deep reservations about the proposal. So we were surprised to hear the Minister say, in winding up the debate in Committee:

“We will consult on community land auctions shortly”.—[Official Report, 18/5/23; col. 430.]


Over the weekend, I was reading the guidance issued in April last year for civil servants who are charged with developing policies such as this one. It says:

“Engaging with stakeholders as soon as possible gives them the opportunity to understand what’s being asked of the service team and why. It’s also a chance to build trust and understanding of each other’s needs and ways of working and lets them plan their time and involvement with the project”.


Clearly, that engagement with the stakeholders simply has not happened here. I am not blaming the civil servants; Ministers clearly insisted on this clause going in. The guidance then adds a warning to civil servants to

“think about what your users need, not what government thinks they want”.

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Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, I first thank noble Lords who have spoken on this group of amendments, which understandably have given rise to a number of questions. I shall do my best to address the various doubts and reservations that have been expressed, particularly those of my noble friends Lord Lansley and Lord Young of Cookham. As a general comment, however, I accept and acknowledge that there is uncertainty about the impact of the land auctions approach. That is why we are proposing a cautious power to explore the approach through time-limited pilots, with only a small number of local planning authorities that volunteer to do so participating. Only local planning authorities that volunteer to participate in the pilot will do so; if no local planning authorities volunteer, then the pilot will not happen.

As regards my noble friend’s lament that consultation has not yet taken place, he might have a point if we were proposing something compulsory for local authorities. We are not; we are proposing pilots that will be completely voluntary. That point is relevant also to my noble friend’s doubts about the capacity of local planning authorities to operate and handle a CLA. Local authorities that do not feel they are resourced to run a CLA will not have to do so.

I hope that we are united across the House in believing that it is important that the land value uplift associated with the allocation of land can be captured and put to good use for the benefit of communities. Notwithstanding the expressions of doom and scepticism from my noble friends, I am firmly of the view that community land auctions are a promising approach to doing just that. CLAs are designed as a process of price discovery that will incentivise landowners not to overprice the land that they are willing to sell.

This incentive should, we believe, have the effect of bearing down on land prices, which, in turn, should create greater scope for developer contributions and hence better value for local communities. The additional benefit to a local planning authority is certainty about the amount of land value uplift, rather than their having to make assumptions about values as they typically do at present. Certainty offered by CLA arrangements should make it easier for a local planning authority to set developer contributions, and easier for them to control housing supply. Therefore, removing these clauses from the Bill would mean losing out on an opportunity to test CLA arrangements as a potential new solution to the shortcomings of the current system.

The key questions posed by my noble friend Lord Young can, I think, be summarised as: what is to prevent a local planning authority giving undue preferential treatment to land in which they have a financial interest, either when drafting their local plan or when granting planning consents, and what transparency will there be around the process? I shall try to reassure my noble friend on those two issues.

First, I wholeheartedly agree that we cannot shift into a system in which planning permissions can, in effect, be bought and sold. That is why we are seeking to fully integrate community land auctions into the local plan-making process. There will be transparency, as the local plan will be prepared in consultation with the local community, with the proposed land allocations in the draft plan consulted on and independently examined in public, in accordance with the proposed new plan-making process.

As I have said previously, local planning authorities will need to consider many factors in addition to financial benefits when deciding to allocate land in their local plan. How, and the extent to which, financial considerations may be taken into account will be set out in CLA regulations. Moreover, once the local plan is adopted and sites are allocated, planning permission must still be sought in the usual way.

In the current system, local planning authorities already consider whether a site can viably achieve compliance with emerging policies when allocating land. Therefore, it is not unusual for local planning authorities to have to assess planning applications on land that they have allocated and from which they expect to secure value in the form of developer contributions to mitigate the impacts of new development. It is also not unusual for local planning authorities to consider planning applications on land in which they have an interest or have previously held an interest. Therefore, while it is true to say that community land auctions are a novel and innovative approach, parallels exist within the current system.

We recognise there should be limits on how local planning authorities can use the receipts from community land auctions. We have set out controls on spending that broadly mirror those for the infrastructure levy, and we will set out more detail on what CLA receipts can be spent on in regulations.

We also recognise the importance of both public scrutiny and evaluation to ensure that we fully understand the impacts of the approach. For this reason, the powers are time-limited, expiring 10 years after the regulations are first made.

In summary, I hope that I have provided reassurance—

Lord Lansley Portrait Lord Lansley (Con)
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I am sorry to interrupt my noble friend. He quite properly declared his interest as a landowner, but I ask him to think about this from the landowner’s point of view. In my experience around Cambridge, many of the most important sites are in the ownership of colleges and large family holdings. These would not make them available to be allocated in the local plan if, as a consequence, they would be subject to a CLA option and would lose control of the development, which is necessarily the result of the auction process. They would simply hold off. We will get less development as a result.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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I entirely take that point, which is why I spoke of a small number of local authorities that we expect to take up the option of a CLA. I am absolutely seized of the point that my noble friend has made. This will not be suitable in a number of areas around the country; he has given a good example from his own area.

Having said that, I hope I have assured noble Lords that existing legislation, and supporting policy and guidance, will mean that there are numerous safeguards to help ensure that community land auctions do not compromise the integrity of the planning system. It means that, while financial benefits can be taken into account in a CLA arrangement, there remains in place a host of measures to ensure well-planned development occurs.

As I said earlier, if we were to accept the amendments tabled by my noble friends Lord Young and Lord Lansley, we would lose the ability to test the merits of piloting community land auctions, which I believe would be a great pity, although I come back to what the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, rightly said: time will tell. For those reasons, I hope my noble friends will not feel the need to move their Amendments 96 and 98 when they are reached.

Amendment 95 agreed.
Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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My Lords, I rise to speak to my Amendments 28 and 29 in this group and will make some brief comments on the other amendments. We completely understand the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, in Amendment 26 that the current way that combined authorities are brought together means that they could very well not be subject to any political balance mechanisms and the power structures could be centralised, as the noble Lord outlined.

The Local Government and Housing Act 1989 provisions are designed to deal with, for example, political proportionality on council committees. Of course, the political balance of combined authorities will vary across the country depending on the make-up of the constituent members, who will have been selected by dint of local elections. Although it is not impossible to put a balancing mechanism in place, it is difficult to see how that could be addressed without introducing a considerable level of complexity. It may result in some areas being represented by members who were not leaders in their own council, for example, which might bring its own difficulties. We need to think about how we get a sense of political proportionality in these combined authorities.

My Amendments 28 and 29 and Amendment 30, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, seek similar objectives. In Committee, as far back as March, we had long discussions about the composition of combined authorities and the role of the respective councils on them in two-tier areas. I will not repeat all the points I made then but will focus on the key issues. First, the presumption in the Bill that only county councils deal with strategic issues is based on an outdated idea of district councils and is entirely wrong. As a brief example, the workstreams on the Hertfordshire growth board planning for the future of the whole county consist of town centre development, growing our economy, housing growth, tackling climate change, et cetera, and are all led by district leaders. It is hard to see how willing they would be to do that if they did not then play a full part in the work of the full growth board and were not allowed voting rights at its meetings.

In response to the point I made on this in Committee on 15 March, the noble Earl, Lord Howe, responded that district councils

“cannot be a constituent member of a co-operative local government grouping whose membership is determined by reference to strategic functions and powers which are the primary province of upper-tier and unitary authorities. That is the logic”. —[Official Report, 15/3/23; col. 1342.]

I do not see the logic of excluding the strategic leaders of 183 councils that not only run services but are responsible for the planning, housing and economic development of 68% of the land in the UK from taking part in strategic functions and powers.

My noble friend Lord Hunt has set out his concerns about the proposals relating to boundaries. He rightly points to the dangers of these being used for gerrymandering. It is simply not acceptable to use primary legislation for that purpose; it is the very opposite of devolution. My noble friend used the example of Wiltshire the other day and Shropshire today. I think also of Hertfordshire, right on the borders of London, and the idea of it being scooped into a huge authority without leaders in those areas having a say is unthinkable.

The Government’s proposal in the Bill that combined authorities may give their associate members a vote but do not have to give that same ability to district council members or leaders leaves combined authorities in the unprecedented and very unwelcome situation of having democratically elected representatives on their body who cannot vote and appointed members who can. That is surely not tenable. The amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, recognises this issue and would restrict associate members from voting. We urge the Government to consider that, if other amendments in this group are not successful. If the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, is minded to test the opinion of the House then he will certainly have our support on that.

My Amendment 28 would automatically confer voting rights on non-constituent members, but we would prefer that that was in the hands of the combined authorities themselves. Amendment 29 would establish a process for the Minister to introduce a mechanism that could allow combined authorities to give non-constituent members full member status. We feel strongly that this decision should absolutely rest with the combined authorities themselves. It is the opposite of devolution for the Government to determine which locally elected representatives should be permitted to take part in local decision-making and which should not. The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, has outlined clearly that weighted voting systems are perfectly possible. Therefore, unless we hear from the Minister that there has been a change to the Government’s view on this issue, we would like to test the opinion of the House.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, Amendment 26, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, would prevent the executive of a combined county authority being able to represent the political make-up of its members. As I made clear in Committee, that is not something that the Government can agree to. A CCA will be made up of members from each constituent council on a basis agreed by those councils through their consent to the establishing regulations, which will provide for the make-up of the CCA’s executive. It is essential that the CCA’s executive properly reflects the local political membership of that CCA, which this amendment would prohibit. It would also place the CCA’s executive in a different position from those of a local and combined authority, which do not require political balance under existing legislation. I do not believe I can say any more but I hope the noble Lord will see why I cannot accept his amendment and that, on reflection, he will agree to withdraw it.

Amendments 28 and 29 from the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage, seek to allow a combined county authority’s non-constituent members to be able to be made full constituent members and to give non-constituent members the same voting rights as full constituent members. Conversely, Amendment 30 from the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, would prevent associate members being given any voting rights, and his Amendment 31 would make planning authorities constituent members.

A key underlying factor of the CCA model is that only upper-tier local authorities can be constituent members and have the associated responsibilities. That is the key difference between it and the existing combined authority model, which, I remind the House, remains available to areas. A non-constituent member of a CCA is a representative of a local organisation; it will not necessarily represent a local authority. I make that point because, since a CCA is a local government institution, it would be inappropriate for any organisation other than an upper-tier local authority to be a constituent member. Constituent members are those who collectively take the decisions of the CCA and are responsible for funding it.

It would also be inappropriate for the same voting rights to be conferred on all non-constituent members, given the range of potential bodies. The CCA should have flexibility to vary voting rights to reflect its membership. We want there to be genuine localism in this area, as in others. Depending on the decision of the combined county authority, its non-constituent members can be given voting rights on the majority of matters.

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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Portrait Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab)
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My Lords, I want to make two points. The Minister said that this is not about gerrymandering. I suspect he would say that, wouldn’t he? I am a resident of Birmingham, and Birmingham City Council is a huge local authority—a member of the West Midlands Combined Authority. Do we not get any say at all in whether the boundaries should be extended to Warwickshire? Surely the current constituent authorities have a legitimate role in consenting to the boundaries being extended.

The second point is that the amendment I referred to, government Amendment 34, allows work to be done in relation to this in advance of Royal Assent—which is a highly unusual move, I suggest.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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I simply remind the noble Lord, in answer to his first point, that there has to be a public consultation. That is when the views of all interested parties can be taken into account. Retaining the present arrangements, which I guess the noble Lord would like to do, could mean that the expansion of a combined authority—where the evidence shows that would be likely to improve outcomes across the proposed whole new area—could end up being vetoed by one existing constituent council if the combined authority’s local constitution requires unanimous agreement from its members on this matter. That could happen, irrespective of support from the potential new member, the mayor and the great majority of constituent councils.

I hope the noble Lord appreciates why these provisions are framed as they are. I know that he believes there is an underlying malign motive. Again, I emphatically repudiate that idea. The current regime acts as a barrier to the expansion of an existing combined authority, even when there is a clear economic rationale in favour of it. The Bill will make it less difficult for combined authorities to expand into more complete and stronger economic geographies. For that reason, I ask him not to press his amendment when it is reached.

Lord Shipley Portrait Lord Shipley (LD)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his reply. He has not allayed my concerns about the dangers of greater centralisation of power in a CCA, and I am unconvinced by his argument about local planning authorities. I still think that a district council which is a local planning authority ought to have an absolute right to membership of a CCA. It should not be at the discretion of existing members of a combined authority. We may come to that issue in a moment, but for the time being I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 26.

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Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab)
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My Lords, I shall be very brief. I want to express our support for the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, and to reiterate our concerns around audit and Oflog and how that will operate within its responsibilities. We need to ensure that there is a sufficient set-up to deal with the huge problems facing local authorities regarding audit. We know that some authorities have not had an audit for years, so this is clearly a real problem. We thank the noble Lord for tabling the amendments and hope that the Minister and the department will look carefully at his concerns and constructive suggestions, as we really need to resolve this issue.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, Amendments 32 and 33 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, seek to increase the transparency of CCAs. Greater functions and funding must come with strong accountability, but that must go hand in hand with decisions being made at the most local level possible. I can deal with this quite briefly and, I hope, to the noble Lord’s satisfaction.

As the Bill is drafted, a CCA’s audit committee can appoint three independent members, should it wish to, but it should be a matter for the CCA to decide exactly how many above one. The regulations that will establish the combined county authorities will set out the audit committee arrangements. They will provide that, where practicable, the membership of the audit committee reflects the political balance of the constituent councils of the combined county authority. Membership may not include any officer from the combined county authority or the combined county authority’s constituent councils. The regulations will provide for audit committees to appoint at least one independent person.

As regards transparency, in addition, Part VA of the Local Government Act 1972 provides powers to require the publication of reports of a committee or sub-committee of a principal council, including audit committees. Schedule 4 to this Bill already includes a consequential amendment to apply Part VA to CCAs.

I hope that that is helpful. The noble Lord has already kindly said that he will not press his amendment, but I hope that what I have said will reassure him.

Lord Shipley Portrait Lord Shipley (LD)
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I thank the Minister for his assurances. I think there may be a way forward here—I hope very much that, at the very least, we will have strong guidance. When the statutory instruments come before the House—assuming that they do—I hope they will ensure that the ability to have three members is translated into having three, as opposed to having at least one person. There has recently been developing concern among the public as to what has happened in some local authorities whose audit systems simply do not seem to be strong enough to prevent capital investment going wrong. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab)
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My Lords, one thing that we have heard in the debates in Committee and today is that councillors are a vital part of our local democracy; they represent the needs of their residents and they work to improve outcomes for their local communities. But it is also important that any good decision-making is done by people who reflect their local communities and bring a range of experience, backgrounds and insight. As we have heard, by law, councillors have to attend meetings in person at the moment. We have also heard how important Zoom and Teams were for councils to continue to meet and the public to continue to take part during lockdown and the pandemic. It also brought people together and involved more people than previously in many cases.

We debated at length in Committee the benefits of continuing to allow virtual attendance at council meetings. The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, thoroughly introduced that when she spoke to her amendment, and I am very happy to support her in what she is trying to do. Unfortunately, the Government withdrew this ability. We know that it supports a large range of people, as the noble Baroness laid out: the parents of young children, carers, disabled people and people with long-term illnesses. It enables them to come forward and represent their communities and encourages wider public participation, which is surely a good thing.

When we think about access to participation, why would the Government not lower barriers to that participation? Why can we not have virtual participation in council meetings as an option? We think that councils should have the flexibility to decide for themselves whether this is a useful tool that they can use. The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, also mentioned, as have others, the option that we have in this House for virtual participation by those with disabilities and health issues. As others have asked, why at the very least can we not have the same dispensation for local councils that we have here in this House? The Government need to look at this again. If the noble Baroness wishes to test the opinion of the House, we will support her.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, this amendment seeks to replicate the situation created by the time-limited regulations that the Government made during the pandemic using powers in the Coronavirus Act 2020 that gave local authorities the flexibility to meet remotely or in hybrid form. Those regulations expired on 7 May 2021, and since that date all councils have reverted to in-person meetings. The Covid regulations, if I may refer to them in that way, were welcomed when they were issued for very good reasons, but they were nevertheless reflective of a unique moment in time, when a response to exceptional circumstances was needed. That moment has now passed, and the Government are firmly of the view that democracy must continue to be conducted face to face, as it has been for the last two years and for most of history prior to the pandemic.

Noble Lords have argued with some force as to the benefits of meeting remotely, and I completely understand why those arguments should be put forward. In the end, however, they are arguments based on one thing alone—expediency. With great respect, those arguments miss the point.

Lord Rooker Portrait Lord Rooker (Lab)
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That is only from the perspective of the councillors. What about the public? They have the right to listen in to the council meetings without travelling, and they are losing that right. Of course, it was left to Mrs Thatcher to get the council meetings open anyway, with her Private Member’s Bill. This is an opportunity for the public not to participate but at least to be part of it and to listen without the need to travel.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, I greatly respect the noble Lord, but it is Report and I hope he will understand that point—but I am also coming on to the very point that he has raised. He is absolutely right about the expectations of the public.

I suggest that the point at the heart of this issue lies in one of the core principles of local democracy, which is that citizens are able to attend council meetings in person and to interact in person with their local representatives. To allow for a mechanism that denies citizens the ability to do this, ostensibly on grounds of convenience, is in fact to allow for a dilution of good governance and hence a dilution of democracy in its fullest sense.

Councils take decisions that can fundamentally alter the lives of people. Where an elected authority comes together to impose such changes, it should be prepared to meet in the presence of those whose lives are affected. I shall exaggerate a little to make a point, and I do not mean to cause offence to anyone—

Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab)
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We have talked about having the same as here. We all meet together, but other people can come in.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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With great respect, I hope that the noble Baroness will hear me out. I will address that point.

I was going to exaggerate a little to make a point; I will do so. I do not mean to cause offence to anybody, but someone whose life is directly affected by a planning decision, let us imagine, would not wish to find that the councillors concerned had taken the decision from their respective living rooms with test match coverage playing in the background. The same principle applies to the interaction between local councillors. If a council meets either in committee or in full session—especially if it meets to take decisions—councillors are entitled to expect that they will be able to deal with their fellow councillors face to face, debating with them, challenging them and taking decisions in the same room.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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No, I will not give way, I am sorry. To put that another way, anyone who has chaired a remote online meeting—whether in a local council or any other context—will know that the internet, accessible as it is to most of us, is nevertheless, by its very nature, a barrier between people. To chair a council meeting online is therefore to experience the considerable responsibility of trying to ensure that debate is both reactive and interactive, that the right balance between different arguments is achieved and that decisions are taken in the light of arguments that have been presented to those assembled in the most effective fashion.

I do not for a minute deny that the ability to conduct virtual meetings during Covid served a useful purpose—but we were making do. We have only to think of how things were in this Chamber during that time. Did we really think that a succession of prepared speeches transmitted from noble Lords’ kitchens or armchairs constituted the kind of effective debating that we experience in Committee or on Report for a Bill?

Lord Reid of Cardowan Portrait Lord Reid of Cardowan (Lab)
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I am trying to follow the Minister’s logic, but I am afraid that my intellectual capacity prevents me doing so. I therefore ask a simple question. By all logic of his argument, there should be no hybrid Select Committee meetings in this House, yet there are. Does he think that that therefore devalues those Select Committee meetings?

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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That point is very similar to one made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, and my noble friend about an option of virtual attendance in case of illness or disability—as we have in this Chamber—but that option is on an exceptional basis. With great respect, that is a far cry from the terms of the amendment that my noble friend has tabled. We know what effective debating looks like: it is when we can stand in this Chamber and look each other in the eye—as at present—as active participants.

No limits are placed on authorities broadcasting their meetings online, and I would encourage them to do so to reach as wide an audience as possible. However, I hope that my noble friend Lady McIntosh and other noble Lords who have aligned themselves with her position will understand why I am coming at this from the point of view of a principle: that it is our duty to safeguard democracy as fully as we can and not to short-change it. I hope therefore that my noble friend will not feel compelled to oppose that principle by dividing the House today.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
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My Lords, I regret that I have had no reassurance whatever, and my noble friend did not even repeat the assurance we got that the Government would keep this matter under review. I find it unacceptable that, under legislation other than the Local Government Act, licensing hearings, school admission panels and regional flood and coastal committees can meet and take decisions that affect people’s lives. The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, made the very valid point: why should it be acceptable for the public to access physical meetings remotely but not those who are temporarily or permanently unable to travel because they cannot get access to public transport? I also find it unacceptable that we have established a very good principle that we can meet remotely in Select Committees of this House but we are not extending the same right to democratically elected councils. I would like to test the opinion of the House.

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Earl Howe Excerpts
Moved by
9: After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—
“Statement of levelling-up missions: devolution(1) In the course of preparing a statement of levelling-up missions, a Minister of the Crown must—(a) have regard to any role of the devolved legislatures and devolved authorities in connection with the levelling-up missions in the statement, and(b) carry out such consultation as the Minister considers appropriate with the devolved authorities.(2) A Minister of the Crown must prepare a document which sets out how the Minister has complied with subsection (1)(a).(3) A Minister of the Crown must lay the document mentioned in subsection (2) before each House of Parliament, and publish it, at the same time, or as soon as is reasonably practicable after, the statement of levelling-up missions is so laid and published.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment requires a Minister of the Crown to have regard to the role of devolved legislatures and devolved authorities, and to consult devolved authorities, in preparing statements of levelling-up missions. It also requires a Minister to report to Parliament on how they have so had regard.
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Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, in moving this amendment, I will speak also to Amendments 13, 15, 16, 21 and 23. The Government are committed to respecting the devolution settlements. The UK Government and the devolved Administrations share a common ambition to deliver the best possible outcomes for people and to make sure that opportunity is spread more evenly across the whole of the country, even if the way we articulate and measure these objectives may sometimes differ.

We have listened carefully to the views of the devolved Administrations, and to views expressed in this House, on the importance of ensuring that Governments in all parts of the UK are properly engaged as we take forward the levelling-up agenda, and that the devolution settlements are not undermined. There is work under way between officials in the UK Government and in the devolved Administrations to explore collaborative work on various missions—for example, on research and development and well-being. These amendments provide further assurance as they make our commitment to work collaboratively explicit and binding in the Bill.

Amendments 9, 15 and 16 would oblige the UK Government to have regard to any role of devolved legislatures and devolved authorities, to consult devolved authorities when preparing or reviewing statements of levelling-up missions or making revisions to mission progress methodology, metrics or the target date, and to report to Parliament on how they have done so. Amendment 13 would place a further duty on the UK Government to consult devolved authorities when preparing a report on the delivery of the missions.

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Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab)
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My Lords, I just want to say that we also welcome these amendments and that I support everything that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, said.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble and learned Lords, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd and Lord Hope of Craighead, as well as to my noble friends the Duke of Montrose and Lady O’Neill, in addition to noble Lords opposite.

The levelling-up missions have been set by the UK Government but outcomes are a shared interest for the whole of the UK. We fully recognise that some of the missions cover areas where public services are devolved. The purpose of the missions is not to alter existing areas of responsibility but rather to align and co-ordinate how different areas of government work towards a common goal. As I have mentioned, work is already under way between officials in the UK Government and devolved Administrations to explore collaborative work on various missions.

However, what I want to stress is the point well made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, about working together across the union. We are committed to working with the devolved Administrations to align policy, and towards a goal shared by everyone: to reduce geographic disparities across all of the UK. These amendments provide further assurance of that commitment by making it explicit and binding in the Bill.

To pick up a further point raised by the noble and learned Lord, we are taking specific action in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, including putting local voices at the heart of decision-making through the UK shared prosperity fund, launching an innovation accelerator in Glasgow City Region and establishing a UK national academy to provide a first-class education to all children in the UK.

My noble friend the Duke of Montrose spoke about establishing a framework. My best response to that is that one of the benefits of devolution is that it allows local places to take tailored approaches to tackling common challenges, enabling experimentation and innovation. We want to do more to bring together evidence and insights from across the UK, learning from our different approaches and experiences, so that we can improve our collective evidence base about what works and what does not work in different contexts. That, to my mind, is a win-win and it could be described as a desire to establish, over time, a framework that works for everybody. Ultimately, working together to improve our collective evidence base will help us all deliver better outcomes for people across the UK.

Amendment 9 agreed.
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Baroness Pinnock Portrait Baroness Pinnock (LD)
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My Lords, increasingly I think that we need a clear definition of levelling up, partly because what I have in mind is certainly not shared by many others around the Chamber.

When I read the tome—the levelling up White Paper—it struck me, with all the maps and graphics in there, that the aim the Government had in mind was to have a clear, strategic focus on areas of multiple deprivation, as defined in the tome, and others, including poor health, lower skills, poor housing, lack of economic opportunity and poor transport, as the White Paper lists. I read it to mean that because some places had several of those factors, they were the places that the Government were going to focus their attention on as a strategy over a number of years.

I have cited previously what the White Paper says about the fact that long and deep-seated change is needed. I support that, if I have it right. What I do not think it means is that every small pocket of poverty can be addressed through levelling up, because even in the wealthiest places there are pockets of poverty. If we tried to do that, it would dissipate the clearer strategy. I am beginning to think that I am the only person who thinks that.

That was the sort of strategy that was labelled City Challenge, Single Regeneration Budget 1, Single Regeneration Budget 2 and the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund. That was the strategy: pick out those places that were suffering multiple deprivation, put a plan together and make a big investment to see whether that would make a difference. Sometimes it did, but sometimes those places did not really improve—perhaps because the strategy was more about places and not about people. People need to be at the heart of any levelling up. Levelling up includes hard stuff, such as skills, employment opportunities, decent housing, health, and child poverty. It is difficult and long-term, and you do not see immediate results. That is what I think levelling up is, and I am not sure —having sat through long hours of debate on the subject—whether I am the only person who thinks that.

A couple of years ago, the Centre for Cities described what it thinks levelling up means. First, it suggested that it should include increasing standards of living across the country:

“There is no inherent reason why one part of the country should have poorer skills or lower life expectancy than another”—


I can go with that. Secondly, it spoke about helping

“every place reach its ‘productivity potential’”;

that is, the gap between its level of economic achievement and what it should be. For example, in parts of Yorkshire, there is quite a big gap, and that will be the same elsewhere.

We need to hear what the Government think levelling up is and where it is aimed. Is it what is in the White Paper, or is it, “Oh dear, we have to try to deal with pockets of poverty and deprivation everywhere”? That is a different strategy, in my head. Unless there is clarity about what the purpose of levelling up is, I think the strategy will become so broad and wide that lots of areas and lots of our communities will miss out. I certainly would not like that.

I guess the noble Earl has the short straw with this group; I really look forward to hearing what he has to say.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, Amendment 24, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage, asks the Government to define levelling up. I can simply say that it is already very clearly defined. When launching the levelling up White Paper, the Government clearly defined levelling up as

“a moral, social and economic programme for the whole of government”

to

“spread opportunity more equally across the”

country.

As stated expressly in the very first pages of the White Paper and thereafter, levelling up is about, first, boosting pay and productivity, especially in places where they are lacking; secondly, spreading opportunities and improving public services, especially where they are weakest; thirdly, restoring local pride; and, fourthly, empowering local leaders. Those are the principal four headings—not so different from those articulated by the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, actually—and in the very first clause of the Bill, levelling-up missions are defined as

“objectives which His Majesty’s Government intends to pursue to reduce geographical disparities in the United Kingdom”.

Furthermore, the Bill will already place a statutory duty on the Government to confirm their missions through laying and publishing a statement of levelling-up missions. There is no need, therefore, to have regulations on top of that.

The Government are putting the framework for the missions into statute, and that arrangement is designed to ensure that what we mean by levelling up and how well we are doing to make progress are transparent and the Government can be held properly to account. As the Government have consistently set out, the first levelling-up statement will be based on the White Paper, but missions, as we have said a number of times, need to evolve over time. The Bill requires the Government to notify Parliament formally of any proposed changes to the missions or metrics set out in the statement of levelling-up missions, and we fully expect that Parliament, expert stakeholders and, indeed, the wider public will use these provisions to hold the Government to account—which, I take it, is in fact the main point behind the amendment.

I hope that my explaining this on the record will have reassured the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, and that, in the light of what I have said, she will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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My Lords, once again, I am grateful to the noble Earl for his response, and I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, for agreeing that we need this definition, but I am still puzzled why, unlike with most Bills that we consider in your Lordships House, there is no clear definition in the Bill of what is intended for it overall. If we go back to the missions and metrics, the content of the missions is not in the Bill, either. Levelling-up missions may be defined in the Bill, but only in a conceptual way, not saying what those missions are; whereas, for example, if we take one of the introductory chapters of the Bill about the setting up of combined authorities, there is a clear definition of a combined authority. It says:

“‘combined authority’ means a combined authority established under Section 103 of the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009”.

There is a definition of what an economic prosperity board and an integrated transport authority is, yet we do not have that kind of definition of what levelling up means in the Bill. For example, there would be nothing to stop the Government, having set out the missions, to consider them separately as well.

That is part of the problem: there may be a definition which the Secretary of State is working to, but, because it is not in the Bill, it is not being communicated to the people charged with delivering the vast majority of what is in it. We feel it would have been much more helpful to have this definition of what levelling up actually is right there in the Bill. However, I am prepared to withdraw the amendment.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, this has been a full debate on the numerous issues bearing on pavement licences. I shall begin by addressing Amendments 449 and 450 in the name of my noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond, to whom I listened with great care and respect. These two amendments relate to the definition of “relevant highway”. The Government support making it as easy as possible for businesses and local authorities to facilitate outdoor eating and drinking through the use of the streamlined pavement licence process. We believe that local authorities should maintain the flexibility to control pavement licences on highways which are both publicly and privately maintainable. The Business and Planning Act 2020 does not currently distinguish between those two types of highway, and as such any enforcement powers available to local authorities would apply equally, ensuring that local authorities can take appropriate action where there are issues with licences.

There are already a number of ways a local authority can consider the pedestrianisation of a street, including to facilitate the placement of furniture on the highway for alfresco dining. They include consideration of important issues such as whether vehicular access is required. Pavement licences can then be granted to highways that have been considered under those processes. We have seen the success of this in practice across the country, including in Soho in London and in the Northern Quarter in Manchester.

Turning to Amendments 451 and 452, which relate to fees and are also in the name of my noble friend, I can say to him that in developing proposals to make the streamlined pavement licensing process permanent, we have worked closely with local authorities, businesses and leaders from the hospitality sector and communities, and many of the points made in this debate have been raised during that process, including the issue of fees. We are increasing the fee cap from £100 to £500 for first-time applications and to £350 for renewals, having undertaken a detailed analysis of actual costs, to create a sustainable process which will cover the costs to local authorities in processing, monitoring and enforcing the process, while remaining affordable and consistent for businesses around the country, which were seeing inflated fees reaching thousands of pounds per application under the previous process. Local authorities maintain flexibility to set fees at any level under the fee cap to respond to local circumstances. For example, we have seen some areas making licences free to support their local high streets. At a time of rising costs, we are not seeking to impose additional charges on businesses, particularly given that the hospitality industry was one of the hardest hit by the pandemic.

My noble friend asked specifically whether we could include maintenance and schemes for profit-sharing in the licence. The fee cap, on which we have consulted extensively as I have mentioned, is set at a level which will cover the costs to local authorities for the administrative burden that they undertake in issuing licences. As I have emphasised, we are not looking to impose additional costs at this time.

On Amendments 453, 454, 456 and 457, also in the name of my noble friend, the pavement licence process that we are seeking to make permanent has been successful in the past few years because it provides a simpler, more streamlined process to gain a licence. Amendment 453 would introduce an unnecessary new administrative process for local authorities in requiring that receipts are sent to all applicants. It also has the potential to create a delay in the process, meaning that licences could take longer to be determined should receipts not be processed in reasonable timescales. However, we are seeking to double the consultation and determination periods compared to the temporary process to ensure that communities have sufficient opportunity to comment on applications. The total period allowed for consultation and determination will change to 28 days.

We have worked closely with stakeholders, including groups representing disabled people, local community groups, businesses and local authorities, in considering the consultation period when making the streamlined pavement licence process permanent. In working with these groups, we have sought to achieve a balance between a quick and streamlined process and ensuring that the process is sustainable for the long term and gives communities an opportunity to comment on applications. That is why we are setting the consultation and determination periods at 14 days each—double that of the temporary process. Amendments 454 and 456 would create a slower process than that which it would replace.

Regarding Amendment 457, the deemed consent provision would encourage local authorities to make determinations within the 28-day window from submission. In the rare circumstances where local authorities do not make a determination and the application is deemed to be granted, this will be subject to all national and locally published conditions, including the “no obstruction” condition, which seeks to ensure that the pavement remains accessible for all. Where this condition is not met, local authorities can revoke licences.

I turn to Amendments 455, 458 and 460, also in the name of my noble friend Lord Holmes. Free flow of pedestrians and other users of the highway is important, which is why the Business and Planning Act 2020 already requires that local authorities take this into consideration when determining applications through Section 3(5) and (6)(a), and prevents licences from being granted where they would prevent pedestrians or other non-vehicular traffic from entering or passing along the highway, or having normal access to premises adjoining the highway.

With respect to Amendment 458, we are aware anecdotally of conditions which would, for example, require that licensed furniture be removed when not in use, and conditions which go further than our national smoke-free condition. We consider that local authorities have local knowledge and appropriate powers to impose such conditions should they consider it necessary. We do not think it is necessary or appropriate to create national conditions for these issues, as there are circumstances where it may not be necessary or appropriate.

With regard to Amendment 460, I thank my noble friend Lord Holmes for raising the very important issue of accessibility and impact of pavement licensing on disabled users of the highway. I listened carefully to the powerful speeches of my noble friend Lord Blencathra and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, among others. The existing legislative framework requires local authorities to take these matters into account and they cannot grant a licence if pedestrians are prevented from using the highway as they usually would.

We have taken this issue very seriously in the light of experience since the pandemic. The Business and Planning Act 2020 sets out that all licences are subject to the “no obstruction” condition, which protects pavement users to ensure that they are not prevented from using the highway. In particular, it states that local authorities must have particular regard for disabled people when considering applications, and must have regard to the guidance published by the Secretary of State. This guidance, developed in close collaboration with Guide Dogs and the RNIB, sets out considerations that local authorities should take into account, including whether they should require barriers separating furniture from the rest of the highway—such as colour contrast and tap rails—or more rigid physical barriers. I hope that, taken together, these comments are helpful to my noble friend Lord Holmes and, indeed, to the Committee.

I turn next to Amendment 459 tabled by my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham. The streamlined pavement licence provisions under debate may be granted, as he will know, subject to any condition that the local authority considers reasonable, as set out in Section 5(1) of the Business and Planning Act 2020. As he rightly mentioned, we are aware that a number of councils across the country, including Manchester and Newcastle, have put in place local conditions that ban smoking in pavement licence areas. We believe it is important to allow local areas to make the decisions that are right for them, using local knowledge and the powers that they already have to impose conditions.

But that is not all. Any licences granted under temporary pavement licence provisions will be subject to a smoke-free condition whereby the premises will need to make reasonable provision for seating outdoors where smoking is not permitted. This condition ensures that customers have greater choice so that smokers and non-smokers are able to sit outside. As I have indicated, local authorities are also able to consider setting their own local conditions where appropriate and where local decision-makers believe that it is reasonable to do so.

I turn next to Amendments 462 and 463 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage. The Government recognise the importance of having a system that can be properly enforced to both deter and tackle the unauthorised placement of furniture. Powers introduced in the Bill enable local authorities to serve notice requiring that businesses remove furniture that has been placed on the pavement without a licence. If this notice is contravened, local authorities can remove the furniture themselves or instruct to have the furniture removed, and can then recover the costs of this and sell the furniture and retain the profits.

It is the Government’s position that the introduction of the powers proposed will lead to appropriate protection of our communities by giving local authorities powers that both work as a deterrent and directly tackle where notices are ignored, ensuring that the licensing system operates appropriately. Highways authorities already have powers in the Highways Act 1980 to tackle obstructions on the highway, including Section 148, which creates an offence of depositing, without lawful authority or excuse, things on the highway that cause interruption to users of the highway.

I turn finally to Amendment 448, 464 and 465 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage. These amendments seek to introduce requirements for assessments of impacts relating to various aspects to be taken by local authorities, by businesses or by government in advance of the measures being made permanent through the Bill. The Government agree that accessibility is incredibly important, and that our towns and city centres should continue to be accessible for all residents. As I set out earlier, we have made it a requirement—set out in Section 3(5) of the Business and Planning Act 2020—that the local authority must consider the impact of the proposed licence on accessibility of the highway to non-vehicular traffic before granting a pavement licence. As I also mentioned a second ago, we worked closely with the RNIB and Guide Dogs on the guidance that supports this.

We also recognise the importance that these measures will have on the vitality and vibrancy of high streets across the country, and encourage businesses and local authorities to embrace the opportunities that this regime offers while considering the impact of new licences on the community. We do not think it necessary or appropriate to require, through legislation, local authorities to consider to what extent a licence will increase high street footfall for the purpose of regeneration, because this would introduce additional burdens on both businesses—in the form of likely needing to undertake analysis and provide evidence of this—and local authorities in assessing this.

Finally, on Amendment 465, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for raising these important issues, which reflect previously tabled amendments that we have discussed on consultation periods, the introduction of tactile markings and the removal of deemed consent. We do not think it appropriate to require a report to be published on these matters as they have already been actively considered, as I have made clear. I hope these comments are helpful to her as regards the amendments in her name and that, specifically, she will feel able to withdraw her Amendment 448.

Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for, as ever, a thorough response to the issues that have been raised during this interesting debate. I am grateful to all noble Lords who have participated.

I appreciate the frustrations of Government Whips, but the purpose of your Lordships’ House is to give proper scrutiny to legislation that comes before us. This is a long and complex Bill with diverse issues, many of which go right to the heart of our communities’ concerns, and it is only right and proper that we raise the issues that we know they would want us to probe and explore in this House.

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Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab)
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My Lords, I start by thanking my noble friend Lady Hayter for her very detailed and clear explanation of the concerns felt by a number of noble Lords about why this clause is in the Bill at all. I thank the noble Earls, Lord Caithness and Lord Lytton, for their very detailed knowledge and perspective from their professional point of view; that was extremely helpful and I think this is a very important debate.

I added my name to the clause stand part notice because we are also extremely concerned by the wording of Clause 213 as currently drafted. As we have heard, it provides a power for the Secretary of State to instigate a review of RICS at any time and with very few limits in terms of scope, rationale or process. At the same time, it fails to set out any related statutory protections for RICS or for the chartered surveying profession more broadly. Our concerns stem from the fact that this seems a very significant step for a Government to take—to actually create powers to instigate reviews of an independent, member-funded institution, which does not itself, as we heard, exercise any statutory powers. Noble Lords have said they are concerned that this could risk creating a perception of RICS’s inability to act independently and in the public interest. As the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, said, it has nothing to do with either levelling up or regeneration and could set a highly unusual precedent for any other royal chartered body in the future.

We have heard about the independent review by the noble Lord, Lord Bichard, and the previous review mentioned by my noble friend. She went into the detail of what the independent reviews have said. Also, recommendation 14 of the report by the noble Lord, Lord Bichard, required an independent review of RICS to take place every five years. My noble friend said that it has agreed to do that even more frequently, every three years, so I do not really understand what the Government’s concerns are. It strikes me that, despite the concerns the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, laid out about recent issues within RICS, it has taken concerns raised extremely seriously, has accepted the recommendations in this report and is amending the RICS charter and by-laws to reflect the recommendations in full, subject to the approval of the Privy Council.

So my first question to the Minister is: why do the Government feel the need to interfere in this process? RICS itself, having accepted the recommendations in the review, is looking to ensure that it is held accountable in a transparent, orderly and appropriate manner, so I genuinely do not understand why the Government feel they need to legislate, as other noble Lords have said. It would be extremely helpful if the Minister could properly explain.

I also found it very concerning to hear from my noble friend Lady Hayter that there do not seem to have been any recent meetings between RICS and the Government. Can the Minister confirm that and explain what meetings have been held to discuss this and when? It does seem quite an extraordinary step. We support either the removal or the amendment of this clause so that it aligns with the wording of recommendation 14 of the review of the noble Lord, Lord Bichard, if it is going to stay in here. Surely the regulation of professions should be overseen by independent governance and decision-making that uphold the public interest and also guard against any risk of improper interference. Can the Minister explain why this clause is in the Bill? Will he also comment on the suggestion of hybridity, because this is extremely concerning?

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful for the discussions my noble friend Lady Scott and I have had with the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, and the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, prior to this debate. I appreciate that they and others have hesitations and reservations around this clause; however, I hope I can persuade the Committee that those reservations should not be given weight.

The Government consider that Clause 213 should remain in the Bill because retaining the Secretary of State’s power in legislation to initiate reviews demonstrates that the Government are committed to supporting RICS in regaining and retaining its reputation after some very serious public failings in 2018-19. The clause also gives the Secretary of State discretion to set specific matters for the independent reviewer to consider that are connected to its governance and effectiveness. The noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, said that there was no rationale for this. The provision is to ensure that a review could specifically include issues that become a public concern, such as providing leadership to the market for the benefit of consumers, rather than always seeking to satisfy members.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, indicated that she viewed the clause as interfering with an independent, free-standing institution. The noble Earl, Lord Lytton, made a similar point. While the clause clarifies the Secretary of State’s power to initiate a review, it would create no power to intervene in the workings of RICS, so I disagree with the premise that Clause 213 interferes with the independence of RICS. Indeed, the clause is clear in clarifying the independence of any proposed reviewer and, with regard to the review itself, mandates only the remit and a requirement to publish, and not, for instance, how the review is undertaken.

I point out to the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, that the power conferred by the clause is strictly limited. The Secretary of State would be required by the clause to publish the independent reviewer’s report but, as he mentioned, the Government are not legislating to act on the review’s outcomes or the independent reviewer’s report, because we cannot, as he said, pre-empt any findings or recommendations. Should the Government require any legislative powers to enact any of the recommendations from a review, we will need to return to Parliament for permission. Once again, this approach will ensure RICS’s ability to operate independently from government while strengthening its accountability to Parliament. The noble Earl asked whether any report would be made directly to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. The answer is no: the report would be independent and the Secretary of State is simply required to publish it.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, said that there would be no reason for the Secretary of State to establish an inquiry under the terms of this clause. RICS is uniquely influential across construction sectors and their links with financial service markets. It is the sole body for bestowing chartered surveyor status in the UK and its reputation took a big hit as a result of the failings of 2018-19, which, given its unique role in these matters, is a very serious issue. We cannot and should not gloss over those failings. Historically, RICS took a very limited view of providing leadership to the market for the public good, being constrained by its internal practices and policies, such as on EWS1 forms, and this contributed to difficulties for leaseholders in selling their flats.

My noble friend Lord Caithness said that the Government do not need this power: he asked what the point was of including the clause. In this clause, we are setting out the scope of any review, and this should act as a reassurance as to the limits of what the Secretary of State is empowered to do. I say again: RICS’s independence of working is not in question. At the same time, the Government are signalling the importance we attach to RICS in protecting consumer interests through its guidance and standards, as well as the regulatory functions it undertakes across the market, improving and managing the built environment and land.

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Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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As I mentioned, the way the clause is phrased should give reassurance to those who feel that there might be a danger of the Government interfering with the operation of RICS. The clause does not permit that.

Earl of Caithness Portrait The Earl of Caithness (Con)
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My Lords, that does not answer my question. Could my noble friend answer my question?

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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I believe I have done so. The clause is justified for all the reasons I have mentioned.

Lord Lucas Portrait Lord Lucas (Con)
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My Lords, I am fascinated by the possibility of using this same mechanism on the chartered accountants, of whom I am a fellow and whom government often wishes would conduct themselves otherwise when looking after and examining the health of companies on behalf of shareholders; and on bodies such as psychiatrists’, which are currently adopting some very strange policies that seem to run counter to the national interest. But do we really want to rob these bodies of their independence, in a way that this clause starts us down the road to doing? Or do we want to encourage—and I have nothing, I am glad to say, to do with the role of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors—these bodies to heal themselves when they are sick, as appears to have happened in this case? There are a lot of bodies that have grown up over the years doing very important work within their segments of British public life. Are we really saying that this is the start of bringing them all under the Government, or are we happy to say that they may go wrong sometimes but what matters is that they sort themselves out and stay independent?

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, I would simply encourage my noble friend to read my remarks in Hansard. There is no promise in this clause to the effect that the current or a future Secretary of State will initiate a review, but that there should be a power for them to do so. I would encourage my noble friend to reflect on the justification I gave in the terms that I gave it, which is that we are clear that the independence of RICS in operating as it does is not in doubt.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Portrait Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Earls, Lord Caithness and Lord Lytton, the noble Lords, Lord Thurlow and Lord Lucas, and my noble friend Lady Hayman, for their contributions on what I think is a rather significant and important issue. I also thank the Minister; “nice try” is how I would summarise what he has tried to do. Much more serious than that, though, I think he gave the game away.

I did not talk about EWS1, quite deliberately, at the introduction of this because I thought it would put the Government on the wrong foot. I felt that that was not a debate we should get into. I must declare an interest, as I live in a cladded building, so I was very involved from day one with the issue of cladding. I remember EWS1 and I remember before that. I remember when the threshold was 18 metres, which affected where I live. The Government asked RICS whether it would say a building was safe below, I think, 14 metres. RICS felt it could not, in all seriousness, give that assurance. I, as a consumer and a resident of a tall building, was reassured that a standard setter—a surveying organisation—did not give in to the Government and did not say that a building would be safe when it was not.

I deliberately did not use that at the beginning of this debate because I did not want to start a ding-dong about something in the past that I thought the Government had got wrong at the time. They were trying to put together a package, which was very complicated after Grenfell. There was the matter of how much money would go towards the buildings that would be affected, and that would come out of a £6 billion fund that was not there at the time. I understand the Government were having difficulties, but it is giving the game away that the Minister has mentioned that, because it is a row that happened then.

RICS may have been completely wrong—it could have been absolutely safe. It could have said that all these buildings under 14 metres that are cladded are absolutely safe. RICS could have been absolutely wrong, and the Government could have been right to ask them to sign off the form. I think we were on Advice Note 14 at the time, so we have been through a lot of these. I, as the consumer, would prefer an independent organisation, even if it is wrong, to tell me whether my dwelling house is safe, rather than the Government, who obviously had a vested interest because of the amount of money they were going to put into it. I was not going to raise that issue, because I thought it was going back. I do think this has given a lot away.

The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, has asked why we need this, because the Government can do it anyway. The Minister has said that the Government have no powers to do anything; even if they set up an inquiry and it proved everything, they still cannot do anything. So the only thing it does is give a chill factor, a threat factor. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, who called it the sword of Damocles. We have had this from the Government before; twice, I have had to deal with it. I dealt with it once before I was in this House, when I chaired the Legal Services Consumer Panel. At that stage, the coalition Government tried to make us—the consumer panel and the Legal Services Board itself—put our websites on GOV.UK. That may not sound very serious, but for an independent regulator of lawyers, it was seen as a real threat to the independence of regulating lawyers. We fought the Government off and just refused to do it.

We then had it again during the passage of the Bill on the mutual recognition of professional qualifications, when the noble Lord, Lord Grimstone, was the Minister. The Government were trying to take a power over the regulators to decide whether they should, for example, accept nurses, vets and other professionals as part of a trade deal, so they would have been regulating the recognition of the qualifications of people coming here from another country as part of a trade deal. We saw off the noble Lord, Lord Grimstone, at the time, and the Bill was much changed, as he admits. We wrote into that Bill a clause saying that the regulators must remain independent of government. So, here we have the itchy fingers of government trying to tell independent regulators what to do. The Minister says there is no power to intervene, and so there is no interference—but the threat is a power to intervene.

I am not going to answer all the points that have been made, because I think they speak for themselves. The Government will understand the unease around the Committee about this proposal. I do not think they have made any argument for the need for this. Frankly, if the Government intervened in every organisation that had gone a bit awry, we would have them looking at the CBI at the moment, which is another important institution in civic society. It is going through much more of a meltdown than anything poor old RICS did, but I assume that the Government are not going to try to interfere in any chartered institute or anything else, or just an independent organisation that has had some troubles.

I do not think the Government have answered how this clause is going to promote the levelling-up agenda. Indeed, if there is any loss of confidence in surveyors, it will do exactly the opposite. The Minister has failed to give assurances that it will not be used as a big stick to make RICS do their bidding in the future.

I am delighted that the Minister has reported, finally, that there will be a meeting between his oppo in the Commons and the chief executive of RICS. It is a bit late, frankly, when we already have a clause in a Bill—I am not going to push it to a vote now, so within a minute or two it will be in the Bill—to have a meeting. We need this self-regulation; that is the right way for independent regulation. I think the Committee and the Minister will not be surprised by me saying that I will return with an amendment to delete the clause on Report.

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Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, for setting out the case for his amendment. However, I am afraid it still looks to me as if he is trying to fix something that is not broken and in doing so is going in the opposite direction of travel to a Bill for devolution.

Taxi licensing in two-tier areas is operated efficiently and effectively and enables local authorities to meet local needs. It also enables local taxi businesses to call into their local authority and have direct contact with it. The enforcement is also done very effectively. The proposal in the levelling up White Paper to transfer taxi licensing powers might be relevant to mayoral combined authorities, but I cannot see the case to justify it for shire counties. Current arrangements for licensing in shire counties work well and do not need to be disturbed. There are more important issues that would benefit shire counties than taking up time on such a consultation; for example, allowing councils to set licensing and planning fees or reforming funding for regeneration so that bidding is not necessary. I could go on, but it is late so I will not.

Even in London, it is not possible to buy an integrated ticket covering tubes, trains, buses and taxis. There will never be an integration of ticketing for obvious reasons of affordability; the cost of taxis and private hire vehicles make them the most expensive form of transport per mile. The White Paper presents no evidence that decisions on licensing prevent the integration of those transport modes into local transport plans. County councils as highways authorities are competent at providing taxi ranks at transport hubs and other appropriate locations in town centres; they do not need taxi licensing powers to achieve that integration.

District councils are not likely to ban taxis from operating half an hour either side of a train arrival, to try to stop private hire vehicles from picking up at or near bus stops, or to say that taxis cannot run at 2 am on Saturday or Sunday mornings to pick up people leaving nightclubs. So could we have more clarity on why Whitehall thinks that there is an integration problem?

A government Minister in the other place has talked of the inconsistency between licensing authorities because there are so many of them. Reducing the number of licensing authorities to 80, as that Minister mentioned, shows the fallacy of the suggestion. One could argue that inconsistencies are local authorities meeting the needs of their communities in relation to taxi operation. However, even if there are problems of inconsistency in policy or practice, the way to address them is by legislating for consistency.

In shire counties, it is likely that the review would be unwelcome and unnecessary. It would remove local decision-making that is sensitive to local requirements and policies and based on local knowledge. It is the opposite of devolution; it would not be an improvement to see decisions on licensing being taken remotely, with no guarantee that they will be people elected by the districts concerned or that they would have any knowledge of the district.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Moylan would require the Secretary of State to consult on the proposal in the levelling up White Paper

“to explore transferring control of taxi and private hire vehicle licensing to both combined authorities and upper-tier authorities”.

I reassure my noble friend that the Department for Transport plans to engage stakeholders on the proposal set out in the levelling up White Paper to explore transferring the responsibility for licensing taxis and private hire vehicles to upper-tier and combined authorities. The aim is to do so during the course of this year. Clearly, as my noble friend will understand, it is essential that the proposal is considered in detail before any decisions are taken about whether to proceed with the change. I am sure that the issues highlighted by the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, can be picked up in that engagement process. My colleagues at the Department for Transport reassure me that they are currently working on this, so I hope that that, in turn, reassures my noble friend Lord Moylan sufficiently to enable him to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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My Lords, I was somewhat taken aback by the vehemence of the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage, who was speaking almost as if I were suggesting that this power be transferred from local authority to some remote Whitehall bureaucracy and administered by statutory instrument in a way displeasing to your Lordships’ House. We are both committed to local government; it is simply a question of which tier of local government, where more than one exists, is the appropriate authority for doing this.

None the less, I am delighted to hear what my noble friend the Minister said; he offered me the assurances I wanted to hear. The discussions, consultations and engagement will proceed, and he has given a timeline. I have achieved as much as I had hoped to achieve in the course of this debate, and I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

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In conclusion, it is important that the Government start to look at how renewable energy can be driven forward, whether through solar panels or alternatives to gas and oil boilers. If there is one thing we know, it is that we cannot carry on heating our homes with fossil fuels for ever, not only because it has a negative impact on the environment but because it simply is not sustainable. We support these amendments because we really need to be making more progress.
Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, Amendment 478 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, would require new homes and buildings in England to have solar panels as of April 2025. I acknowledge straight away that the spirit of this amendment is unimpeachable. Renewable energy, such as that generated from solar panels, is a key part of our strategy to get to net zero.

We should be aiming to see new homes and buildings built in a way that contributes to the net-zero agenda. The difference between the Government and the noble Baroness, in working towards that aim, is one of approach. I am sure she will recall that the Government introduced an uplift in energy-efficiency standards, which came into force in June 2022. The purpose of the uplift is to deliver a meaningful reduction in carbon emissions. Critically, though, it also provides a stepping stone to the future homes and buildings standards, which we are aiming to legislate for next year and which would come into force in 2025.

It is important to understand that our approach to achieving higher energy-efficiency standards has remained consistent—that is to say technology neutral—to provide developers with the flexibility to innovate and choose the most appropriate and cost-effective solutions for their sites. Some buildings may not be suitable for solar panels—for instance, homes that are heavily shaded due to nearby buildings or trees, or where the roof size or shape does not lend itself to solar panels. We fully expect, however, that to comply with the uplift, most developers will choose to install solar panels on new homes and buildings or use other low-carbon technology such as a heat pump. Introducing an amendment to mandate solar panels would therefore be largely redundant. I hope that is helpful in explaining why we do not think that this amendment is the right way to go.

I turn to Amendment 504GJE in the name of my noble friend Lord Lucas. This looks to allow local planning authorities to request the installation of solar panels on roofs of commercial buildings and adjoining spaces in a designated area. I am sure that we can agree that decarbonising our energy supply is one of the greatest challenges of our generation. I am not, however, convinced that giving local planning authorities powers effectively to require commercial property landowners and tenants to fit solar panels to their existing buildings and facilities is the best way to achieve this. Not all commercial landowners or tenants will be in the position to take action.

Instead, we should focus on empowering those who have the means to do so by ensuring that planning and building regulations are not a barrier. That is why we have policies in the National Planning Policy Framework, as well as permitted development rights and building standards, that support the rollout of renewable energy, including installing solar panels. The National Planning Policy Framework is clear that local planning authorities should have a positive strategy in place to promote energy from renewable and low-carbon sources, such as solar panels. The NPPF is also clear that when determining planning applications for renewable and low carbon development, local planning authorities should approve the application if its impacts are, or can be made, acceptable. This can include the installation of solar panels.

To help facilitate the take-up of renewable energy, permitted development rights allow for the installation of rooftop solar and stand-alone ground-mounted solar in the grounds of domestic and non-domestic buildings. The Government have recently consulted on changes to the permitted development rights for solar equipment to support the solar energy objectives set out in the British energy security strategy. The consultation included proposals to amend the existing permitted development right for the installation of rooftop solar on commercial buildings and introduce a new permitted development right for solar canopies on non-domestic car parks, such as supermarkets and retail parks. The department is now considering the responses and further details will be announced in due course.

It is also worth my reverting to the point I made in response to Amendment 478. The energy efficiency changes to the building regulations that the Government recently implemented, and which came into force in June 2022, will mean that to comply with these new standards many, if not most, developers will choose to install solar panels on new commercial buildings. So, again, while I have some overall sympathy with my noble friend in bringing forward his amendment, given all that I have laid out I hope he will understand why the Government do not feel able to support it.

I listened with much interest to the contribution of the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan. Her Amendment 504GJK proposes to create a new pilot scheme to retrofit an existing town, powered by renewable energy and heated by a ground source heat network. I am happy to bring the Committee up to date on where we are with this area of policy more generally.

The Government’s general approach to the transition to clean heat is to follow natural replacement cycles, working with the grain of markets and consumer behaviour to minimise costs and disruption and avoid early appliance scrappage. On heat network zoning specifically, the Energy White Paper, heat and buildings strategy and net zero strategy committed us to introduce heat network zoning in England by 2025. It is a key policy solution to help reach the scale of expansion of heat networks required to meet net zero.

The zoning policy will be delivered via powers in the Energy Bill to make regulations, including in relation to the development of a nationwide methodology for identifying and designating areas as heat network zones. The objective of the methodology will be to determine where heat networks are lower cost than low-carbon alternatives in an area. Incidentally, to answer a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, there is a difference between heat network zoning and converting an area to hydrogen heating. Unlike technologies such as community renewables and heat networks, using 100% hydrogen for heating is not yet an established technology.

Given the existing work under way and the Government’s general approach to the transition to clean heat, we do not believe the proposal for a pilot will deliver additional value.

Similarly, Amendment 504GJL proposes to create a pilot scheme to construct a new town powered by renewable energy and heated by a ground source heat network. I am afraid the Government do not believe that this proposal will deliver benefits additional to those already in prospect. From 2025, the future homes standard will ensure that all new homes are net-zero ready, meaning that they will become zero carbon when the electricity grid decarbonises without the need for any retrofit work. So, although the Government cannot support these last two amendments, I hope the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, will take some encouragement from the work and plans that are already under way.

Baroness Sheehan Portrait Baroness Sheehan (LD)
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I am not convinced that the heat network zoning that the Minister refers to is the same as the ground source heat pump networked grids that I am talking about. I wonder whether it would be worth having a further conversation outside of this Committee and whether the Minister would do me the courtesy of arranging that. I think this is an important point.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, I would be very happy to arrange a meeting with the noble Baroness and appropriate officials to discuss the point that she has just made.

Lord Lucas Portrait Lord Lucas (Con)
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My Lords, I am very grateful to the Minister for his answer to my amendment. I take much comfort in what he said about new build and planning permission and so on, and I can see how that all might work, but I do not see any sign of proposals that will work in persuading people to retrofit, and there is huge potential there. I very much hope that in due time the Government will turn their thoughts in that direction. I would just say to the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, that if she knows someone who can build a new town in three years, will she please introduce them to the restoration and renewal team.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My noble friend the Minister needs to respond but, while he does so, perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, and I could have a usual channels chat.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill creates the powers for the Government to amend retained EU law and will remove the special status of retained EU law in the UK. On 17 May, the House agreed a government amendment to replace the previously proposed sunset of retained EU law in the Bill with a list of retained EU law for revocation at the end of 2023. This provides clarity to the House and certainty for business by making it clear which legislation will be revoked. Powers in the Bill that allow us to continue to amend retained EU law remain, so further regulation can be revoked or reformed in the future. This will mean that we still fully take back control of our laws and end the supremacy and special status of retained EU law by the end of 2023.

As noble Lords will be aware, the REUL Bill had Third Reading in this House this afternoon. Given that both Bills are still passing through Parliament, the Government are working through what the interactions are between them. I do not think it appropriate to amend the Bill in this way, but I will commit to writing to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, by the end of this year to set out the interaction between the two Bills. I hope that is helpful.

Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for that very helpful response. He has completely taken on board the point that I am trying to make, and I appreciate that. A letter explaining exactly how it will all work together by the end of the year will be extremely helpful. I thank the Minister very much, and I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Earl Howe Excerpts
Baroness Pinnock Portrait Baroness Pinnock (LD)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, very much for the best explanation of community land auctions that I have heard. I have searched the internet to find a good explanation but have heard the best one this afternoon from him.

The issue is how we capture for local communities the uplift—a very large uplift in many cases—in land values once planning consent has been given to a site. This is one way in which it could work and it has some attraction to it. However, living as I do in West Yorkshire, where land values are not like those in Surrey, Hampshire or Berkshire, the inevitable consequence of community land auctions is exactly as the noble Lord, Lord Young, said: to the well off, more shall be given while to the least well off, little shall be given.

As far as I can tell, this will exacerbate regional inequalities. As the noble Lord, Lord Young, said, this is a levelling-up Bill. Living where I do, I was really looking forward to lots of proposals in it to reduce regional inequalities, but this is one example of where it will do the opposite. Somehow we have to find ways of extracting the very considerable uplift in land values once planning consent is given for housing.

Where I live, we still have many former industrial sites in need of costly remediation, and those land values will not be there for a community land auction. The provision will work only on greenfield sites, which is contrary to what we are trying to achieve. It will increase regional inequalities, which is contrary to the purpose of the Bill. If we can find a better way of extracting land value once planning consent or planning allocations have been given, that is where we should go. I am not convinced that this is the way, interesting though the proposal is. “Let us see the evidence” is what I would like to say. I know we are going to do a pilot, but somebody somewhere in the department has done some thinking and provided some evidence. Let us see it before we make a decision on this, because otherwise it is a dive into the unknown.

My last point is that there have not been good examples recently of local authorities getting involved in commercial practice—in fact, the contrary is the case. That is where this would take us: local authorities bidding for and buying land at a certain value and then hoping that, once they sell it on with planning consent, the extra can be extracted. That is putting a lot of faith in the commercial expertise within local authorities, which I am not sure they have. If I was putting a bet on developers and landowners against local authorities, I know which one would win.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, in addition to the levy we have been debating, the Government are interested in testing other mechanisms that could improve land value capture.

Community land auctions are an innovative process of identifying land for allocation for development in a local planning authority’s area in a way that seeks to optimise land value capture. Their aim is to introduce transparency and certainty by allowing local planning authorities to know the exact price at which a landowner is willing to sell their land. The crux of our approach is to encourage landowners to compete against each other to secure allocation of their land for development in the local plan by granting a legally binding option over their land to the local planning authority.

The competitive nature of community land auction arrangements incentivises landowners to reveal the true price at which they would willingly part with their land. If the land is allocated in the local plan upon its adoption, the local planning authority can sell the CLA option, keeping the amount that the successful bidder has paid and capturing the value that has accrued to the land as a result of the allocation. The successful bidder must then pay the price set out by the original landowner in the option agreement to purchase the land. The detailed design of community land auction arrangements will be set out in regulations that will be subject to the affirmative procedure. In a moment, I will address my noble friend Lord Young’s clause stand part notice but, for now, I hope that that is useful background, by way of introduction.

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Earl of Caithness Portrait The Earl of Caithness (Con)
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My Lords, maybe it is because it is Thursday afternoon, but I am slightly more confused now than before my noble friend gave his reply. He said that the land would be within the development plan, but he also said that it is an innovative way of identifying land for development. Those two statements do not seem to agree; there is a contradiction. I do not think that my noble friend answered my noble friend Lord Young’s point about the distortions that this can cause to a potential development plan.

It is perhaps true more in the south of England than in the north, where land values are cheaper, but if a landowner gets in cahoots with the local authority and says, “I will sell you my land at X”, knowing very well that his chances of getting planning permission are zero, would that not encourage the local authority to alter the development plan to benefit itself and the community rather than doing planning in the old-fashioned way, which was to develop with a holistic view of the area?

One thing I am not certain about is where local authorities will get the funds from to buy that land, particularly in the expensive south-east. I wonder whether my noble friend can help me on that.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, the process will not be as my noble friend has described. The simplest way I can describe this is that community land auctions will be a process of price discovery. In the current system, local planning authorities have to make assumptions about the premium required by a reasonable landowner to release their land for development. For Section 106 agreements, this manifests itself through viability negotiations between the local planning authority and a developer. As these can be negotiated, there is a higher risk that, in effect, higher land prices lead to reduced developer contributions, rather than contributions being fully priced by developers into the amount that they pay for land.

For the community infrastructure levy and the proposed infrastructure levy, a levy rate is set for all development within certain parameters. When setting rates, the local planning authority has to calculate how much value uplift will occur on average, and has to make assumptions about landowner premiums and set a levy rate on that basis. The actual premium required by individual landowners will not be available to local planning authorities and will vary depending on individual circumstances. If the local planning authority makes an inaccurate assumption about landowner premiums, they may either make a lot of sites unviable by setting too high a levy rate, or else they will collect much less than they might have done otherwise by setting too low a levy rate.

Under the CLA process, landowners bid to have their land selected for allocation in an emerging local plan, as I have described, by stating the price at which they would willingly sell their land to the LPA for development. The offer from the landowner, once an option agreement is in place with the LPA, becomes legally binding. The LPA can either exercise it themselves, thereby purchasing the land, or auction it to developers. The competitive nature of CLAs incentivises landowners to reveal the true price at which they would willingly part with their land. If they choose to offer a higher price, they risk another piece of land being allocated for development, in which case they will not secure any value uplift at all.

I do not want to prolong the debate unnecessarily, so I will respond to my noble friend in writing on the other questions I have not covered.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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I am very grateful to my noble friend the Minister for the very patient way he dealt with the argument I put forward. I will take him up on two points. First, he said that the Government will consult local authorities about this. Surely, before introducing primary legislation on a major planning system, they should consult the local authorities first, rather than after the Bill has gone through. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I think he said that when the local authorities were drawing up the plan they could take into account the financial benefits. I think that is moving towards what he subsequently deplored: namely, the sale of planning permission.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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The extent to which those financial benefits can be taken into account will be set out, as I mentioned, in regulations. My noble friend makes a fair point, but parameters will be set around this. On the issue of prior consultation, which the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, also raised, one can take two views: one is to go through the process that my noble friend advocated, and the other is to say that the integrity and workability of the scheme is such that we can afford to come to this House and the other place first before launching a pilot. Our view is that it will be perfectly satisfactory to take that course.

Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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My Lords, this has been a very interesting discussion. This is probably one of the cases where there is less clarity at the end of the debate than there was at the beginning. I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Young, for once again giving a very forensic and detailed analysis of the subject and for raising all the key issues that sit within it. As the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, said, it was a very clear description of community land auctions.

On the issue of consultation, I remind the Committee that the noble Lord, Lord Benyon, in answer to an Oral Question earlier today, said that we are in danger of doing too much consultation. In this case, it would have been helpful if councils had been consulted before this proposal was put forward in primary legislation, because some of the issues raised in the debate would have come up immediately—they are quite obvious to those of us engaged in local government.

I have great sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Young, said. There is a queue of things that many of us feel should be in this Bill, including renters reform, leasehold reform, repealing the Vagrancy Act and so on. They did not get across the line and put into this primary legislation; yet here we have a fairly unformed idea, which has not been tested, which is in the legislation. That process is a bit mysterious to some of us.

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Lord Stunell Portrait Lord Stunell (LD)
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My Lords, I support what the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage, said, as well as what my noble friend Lady Pinnock had to say about this.

I need to start by saying that I worked in the architects’ department of a new town for 13 years and lived in that new town during its raw development stage. Noble Lords will not be surprised to hear me say that I believe that the development corporation model has a proven track record, usually of building communities with all the essential infrastructure in a joined-up way. The Government are right to see the development corporation model as one means of accelerating necessary development, and I welcome the presence of these clauses in the Bill.

However, I will just briefly reflect on my experience. During the 1960s and 1970s, the new towns were very top-down in conception. The New Town Act made the development corporation I worked with simultaneously the client, the designer, the planning authority and the funding channel for the delivery of the projects I worked on, which was a very cosy situation for those of us working on the projects but not so good if you lived next door or sometimes literally underneath where we were developing. The later generation of urban development corporations mostly paid better lip service to local democratic institutions than that.

However, there are deficiencies, and my noble friend Lady Pinnock has put her finger on one of them. It is good that the relevant clauses inform a model whereby development corporations spring from local government initiatives and are not to be imposed by somebody with a map sitting in Whitehall. That brings me to my first question to the Minister. Clause 156(2) still reserves the power to declare urban development corporations independent of any local proposals—the Secretary of State can in fact sit behind a desk in Whitehall. Do the Government have in mind making any such designations, and if not, why do we have Clause 156(2) in the Bill?

My second question relates to the consultees listed in Clause 156(4), which inserts new provisions. Indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage, refers to that in her Amendment 407. A very good part of that clause says that local government is to be involved even if it is not the commissioning authority. There is then a less good list of what local government consists of. Very surprisingly, it does not include parish and town councils. They are not listed as statutory consultees, although district and county councils are. There is a parallel provision in the legislation for the urban development corporations to what we might call the green belt ones. In each case, parish councils are left out. In any normal use of language, they qualify as local government, do they not? They also qualify as legislative and statutory as well, so it is a great puzzle to me why they are not there. An important point is that they will probably be the best informed about their areas, and at a detailed level which certainly will be missed by county councils, for instance. I therefore want to hear from the Minister why parish councils are not statutory consultees.

The Minister may say that there is a catch-all here;

“any other person whom the proposing authority considers it appropriate to consult”

is among the consultees. However, that is an option for the consulting authority, not a statutory consultation partner. If you want to rely on that catch-all, why not rely on it for county councils? If it is blindingly obvious that you would always consult a parish council, and therefore you do not need to say it, it must surely be blindingly obvious that you need to consult the county council, so you do not need to say that. If you are mentioning one, why not the other?

Secondly, what led to the omission of town and parish councils? If it was an oversight, will the Minister please correct it on Report or at least tell us that the inevitable statutory instrument will make it unambiguously clear that any town or parish council in or in the vicinity of a proposal should be consulted as a matter of course? I would be very happy to receive an answer by letter, if that makes it easier.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, as the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, has explained, this group of amendments concerns development corporations. I am grateful for the broadly supportive comments from noble Lords for these provisions.

Amendment 403 probes the issue of local accountability, which was a theme picked up strongly by the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, whose amendment I will come to in a moment. One of the key priorities of the Government’s levelling-up agenda is to empower local leaders and communities. Introducing a new, locally led urban development corporation model will support local aspirations for regeneration without the need to establish a body accountable to central government, but which is instead accountable to local authorities. For it is local authorities—local councillors, elected by their local community—who will be the originators of the proposal and oversee the locally led development corporation, ensuring clear democratic accountability.

We completely recognise the importance of community involvement and participation in the creation of locally led development corporations. That is why we have included statutory public consultation arrangements for locally led urban and new town development corporations in the Bill, which proposing authorities must implement before submitting their proposal to the Secretary of State.

We intend also to use regulations to set out further details on the composition of board membership and aims of the oversight authority for locally led urban development corporations, as we did in relation to locally led new town development corporations in 2018. In appointing independent members, we expect the oversight authority to ensure that the board has the relevant skills and experience needed and includes those with an understanding of the local area.

I turn to Amendments 404 and 405. We recognise the importance of ensuring that appropriate scrutiny has taken place, including from the local community, where a proposal is being developed to designate the development area of a new settlement or urban development area and establishing a locally led development corporation. As I have mentioned before, we have included provisions for statutory public consultation where people can have their say on the proposals at the formative stage before it is submitted to the Secretary of State. When the proposal is received by the Secretary of State, they will look very carefully at the robustness of the plans, including at community involvement and views expressed, before making a decision on whether the proposal is expedient in the local interest and making an order to designate the development corporation’s development area.

The noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, asked whether all planning would become the responsibility of the locally led UDC and whether all powers would transfer from the local authority to the locally led urban development corporation. The answer is no—or rather, not necessarily. It is for local authorities to propose and for the Secretary of State to decide, under his discretion, whether and to what extent functions should transfer.

The noble Baroness and the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, also asked about the conformity of locally led UDC development with local plans. A development corporation that takes on plan-making or development management functions will be subject to the same rules as a local planning authority. I would be happy to fill out that answer in writing, if I may.

Amendments 404 and 405 are therefore an unnecessary addition to these consultation requirements. They would slow down the designation of development corporation areas. The purpose of designating the area is to determine the area in which the locally led development corporation will operate and deliver a programme of urban regeneration or a new town. There will be further opportunities for the local community to have its say on the planning proposals for the area as proposals for development come forward through the planning system.

Moved by
281CA: Clause 115, page 148, line 30, at end insert—
“(iii) for “arising in” substitute “in respect of”;”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the amendment inserting a new paragraph (ab) at the end of line 30 of Clause 115 in the minister’s name.
Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, I will speak also to Amendments 281CB to 281CE. These amendments are aimed at creating greater opportunities for those people who want to build their own home by ensuring that local authorities make sufficient provision for self- and custom-build sites in their areas.

The Government believe that self- and custom-build housing can play a crucial role as part of a wider package of measures to boost home ownership and diversify the housing market, as well as helping to deliver the homes that people want. Self and custom build improve the design and quality of homes as they are built by the people who will live in them.

We are aware that, under the current legislation, some development permissions that are not necessarily for self- and custom-build housing are being counted towards a local planning authority’s statutory duty. This has meant there is an incomplete and inaccurate picture of self and custom build at a local and national level, which can distort the market and have wider impacts on small- and medium-sized enterprises and developers.

In the other place, the Government introduced Clause 115 to ensure that a development permission will count in meeting the duty only if it is actually for self-or custom-build housing. The Government have brought these additional amendments forward to further tighten up the Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 to ensure that the intended policy aim of the original legislation is being met in practice.

Amendment 281CB ensures that only land made available explicitly for self-build and custom housebuilding qualifies towards the statutory duty to grant planning permission et cetera and meets demand for self and custom build. We have tabled the amendments to give the power to the Secretary of State to define in regulations the descriptions of types of development permissions that will count towards meeting this duty. This will ensure that only development permissions that are intended to be built out as self or custom build will be counted. The regulations are likely to require any permissions granted for self and custom build to be characterised by a condition or planning obligation making that requirement explicit. Amendment 281CE specifies that any regulations made under this new power will be subject to the negative resolution procedure.

Amendment 281CC ensures that any demand that a relevant authority has accrued for self and custom build through its self and custom build register that has not been discharged within the three-year compliance period will not dissipate after this time, but will roll over and remain part of the demand for the authority to meet under Section 2A of the 2015 Act. Amendments 281CA and 281CD are consequential, minor and technical amendments that amend the 2015 Act to ensure that Amendment 281CC works in practice. Overall, the amendments proposed ensure that the 2015 Act works as intended, without ambiguity.

These amendments, accompanied by our other interventions, including the launch of the Help to Build equity loan scheme and the Government’s response to Richard Bacon MP’s independent review into scaling up of self-build and custom housebuilding, will help to mainstream the self- and custom-build sector. This will allow more people to build their own home, help support SMEs and boost housebuilding. I therefore hope that noble Lords will support these amendments. I beg to move.

Lord Best Portrait Lord Best (CB)
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My Lords, I rise to support this group of government amendments aimed at increasing the number of homes built or commissioned by their future occupiers. I had the pleasure of piloting the Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 through your Lordships’ House. It started as a Private Member’s Bill from Richard Bacon MP, who has tirelessly—I would say relentlessly—pursued his campaign to get the sector to scale up. Most recently, he has produced an independent review to boost the building of self-commissioned new homes across all tenures, and these amendments flow from the Bacon review to which the Minister referred.

In countries as diverse as Germany and New Zealand, much of the new housebuilding is done in partnership with its future occupiers who, if not actually building the homes, are specifying the form they take and working with an SME builder to meet individual requirements. The result in other countries is that homes are more varied, personalised, affordable and energy efficient. These amendments attempt to give this still fledgling sector further impetus by helping self-builders and custom housebuilders to get their hands on the land on which to build, rather than leaving the volume housebuilders to gobble it all up. The sector would be an important beneficiary of my earlier amendment on diversification on larger sites, but a shift to that Letwin-inspired development model is not going to happen immediately. Bolstering the existing means to get local authorities allocating land for self-build and custom housebuilding is eminently sensible. I congratulate Richard Bacon on his continuing tenacity, the Right to Build Task Force on getting the Government to take forward these amendments and the Government on accepting them.

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Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab)
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I thank the Minister for introducing these government amendments. We have no problem at all with them. They seem fairly straightforward in what they want to achieve, but I would like to make the point that this is going to help provide only a small number of homes. I wonder what estimate the Government have made of the number of homes this will provide and what the demand is for this sort of housing. It would be quite interesting.

We are concerned about the number of houses being built, full stop, particularly since the Government abandoned their mandatory housing target. We feel that this Bill should be used to help the Government to concentrate on providing sufficient quality housing that includes both affordable-to-buy and social housing. Perhaps the Government could then bring forward an amendment on properly defining “affordable housing”; that would be a very useful amendment to see going forward.

As I said, I have absolutely no problem with this; I am quite happy to support the government amendments. However, we feel that the Government need to balance their interest in progressing this with their progress in meeting their stated target of 300,000 new homes.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Best, and both noble Baronesses, for their comments and questions. The noble Lord, Lord Best, is perhaps this House’s foremost expert on housing matters, saving my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham who is now looking at me.

To answer for now the question put by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, on the number of self-build and custom-build houses that we expect to flow from this, it is very difficult to estimate. We do think that those categories of housing have a definite place in the system. If I can enlighten myself, and her, further, I will be happy to do so. I hope she will have gained a sense that these amendments are designed to remove the barriers that have been identified in this area; certainly, we fully expect that to happen having engaged with the sector.

As regards a definition of affordable housing, I think that will have to be a long debate for another day—although we have touched on that subject before during these Committee proceedings.

As regards the question posed by the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, I think the instance that she cited will be addressed, in part at least, by Amendment 281CC. What we want to achieve in that amendment is that, where you have a register of self-build and custom-build applications that have not been discharged within the three-year compliance period, that demand will not dissipate after this time but will roll over. I will, however, write to her about enforcement on these particular applications and clarify that.

Amendment 281CA agreed.
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Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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My Lords, regarding Clause 123, we believe that this provision was added to the Bill subsequent to consideration in the other place, so it has perhaps not had the same scrutiny as other parts of the Bill.

Amendment 285AA, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, seeks to have the status of combined mayoral authority with planning powers added to the list of exemptions. A distinction was drawn previously in your Lordships’ House between the devolution powers conferred on mayors and the legislative powers devolved to Administrations, but what meetings and discussions have been held with devolved Administrations in this respect?

I express our concern, alongside that of the noble Lords, Lord Stunell and Lord Carrington, about the implications of this clause in any case. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, argues that the clause should not be part of the Bill at all. I can understand this view as in this part of the Bill, as in others, there are very significant powers being taken by the Secretary of State to amend these long lists of 25 pieces of primary legislation, with limited scrutiny or consultation and without reversion to either House. That would give us great cause for concern. I hope that the Minister can respond to this, but we support the clause stand part notice.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, I have listened carefully to the concerns expressed by the noble Lords, Lord Stunell and Lord Carrington, and hope and believe that I can fully reassure them both. I will respond to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, in a second, but will begin by addressing Amendment 285AA, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Stunell.

This amendment would restrict the nature of amendments that can be made under the power contained in Clause 123 so that the Secretary of State could not use it in relation to matters within a devolved competence or where a mayor has planning powers. Noble Lords will be aware that under Clause 123(6) any changes made by regulations under this section do not come into effect except where Parliament enacts a relevant consolidation Act and that Act comes into effect. In practice, these regulations will smooth the transition of the law from its current unconsolidated state to its future consolidated state. To do this, they have legal effect for only a moment, immediately before the relevant consolidation Act comes into effect.

Noble Lords will know that consolidation is a highly technical exercise restricted to the clarification and restatement of the existing law. This power is likewise restricted. It cannot be used to change the terms of devolution, nor to interfere in policy matters which are devolved. The power to make incidental provision in relation to a devolved competence is included here to reflect that much of planning and compulsory purchase law pre-dates devolution. Without this power allowing the Secretary of State to disentangle the law in England, we would be unable to ensure that in substance the legal position within devolved competence would be unchanged when the law applying in England was disentangled. In relation to the second—

Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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I thank the noble Earl for giving way. The provision in Clause 123(4) says:

“For the purposes of this section, ‘amend’ includes repeal and revoke”.


That sounds like a sledgehammer being used to crack a nut if it is a matter of consolidation.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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Consolidation in this area of the law is immensely complex. Frankly, we do not know the full extent of the relevant planning provisions that must be considered in any common consolidation exercise because the exercise has not been commenced.

Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab)
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My apologies, but if it is that complex, is it not more likely that mistakes could be made, making it even more concerning that something could just be repealed or revoked without full comprehension or sufficient time? It is quite concerning.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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The noble Baroness should not be concerned, if I may suggest, as I shall go on to try to explain, because I have a little bit more to set out for the Committee. The power does not allow the changing of the terms of devolution once given effect in law, nor does it allow any changes to what planning powers can be conferred on any area as part of such a deal.

Finally on the amendment, I reiterate that in relation to the planning powers of mayors, there is no intention to remove the powers of district councils through devolution deals. I therefore hope I have persuaded the noble Lord that, as expressed, the amendment is not necessary.

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Lord Stunell Portrait Lord Stunell (LD)
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I thank the noble Earl for taking us through what for some of us is a kind of grade 1 learning experience, which he has dealt with very effectively. I have some considerable concerns which remain. I wonder whether he could go back to a point that he made in response to the noble Baroness a few minutes ago: that it was so complex and there were so many different pieces of legislation that it was not possible to give a list of all the complexities and so on which were involved. He also spoke about trust, and how the whole system might be undermined by opaqueness. If I connect those two remarks, he will perhaps see that to some extent the opacity means that the trust is not present on this side of the Chamber at the moment.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
- Hansard - -

I am sorry to hear that. The point I was seeking to make is that the general public need to trust the law and know what the law is, as does anyone dealing with the planning system. That is why the Government’s ambition is to put in train a consolidation exercise, which may take a considerable time. I have been quite frank with the Committee that there are not only 50 Acts that we know about which deal with planning and compulsory purchase, but—as my notes say—innumerable other Acts which cross-reference those 50 Acts. It will require a major legal exercise to bring all the threads together.

I cannot commit to a timescale for consolidation from the Dispatch Box today. There is a large amount of work to do before we can get to that stage and that will naturally have to be balanced against the wider legislative programme. It is for that reason that we are asking for this power to prepare the way—I think that is the best way of putting it—to make the ultimate consolidation a more achievable exercise.

Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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I am sorry to keep pursuing this point but it is really very important indeed. Any of us who has worked on this Bill knows the difficulty of how many crossovers there are with other Bills. On the previous group of amendments, from my perspective and I am sure from those of colleagues on these Benches, we ended up referencing back through various Bills to get to the point that the amendments referred to. That does not make life easy, and I am sure it makes it very opaque for professionals and the public trying to deal with the system. That simply underlines yet again, as we have done many times through this process, that a planning Bill might have been a better option to get to the rationalisation of the planning system, but we are where we are with that.

We remain concerned about just how this exercise will be done. Will a whole series of statutory instruments come through? Will it just be for the Secretary of State to make the decisions and then change the legislation—I am not entirely sure how that works in process terms—or will we have a whole other Bill that will be the “consolidation of planning Bill 2025” or something? I am interested as to what the process will be for this, because we have 25 Acts here at least—there are probably more than that, in truth—that need amending.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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As I said, the exercise is an enormous one. It requires legal brains to get their heads around the statutes before we can even think about putting a consolidation Bill together. I am afraid I cannot be precise in answer to the noble Baroness but I will see whether I can clarify and distil what I have tried to say—obviously not very adequately—by writing to her. I will of course copy my letter to the noble Lords, Lord Stunell and Lord Carrington. In doing so, I hope I can provide complete reassurance about the intent behind these regulation-making powers.

Earl of Caithness Portrait The Earl of Caithness (Con)
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My Lords, I have listened with great care to my noble friend. I understand about consolidation and legislation; it is immensely complicated. He used a phrase that I half wrote down—I missed the last bit because I was listening to the next sentence. He said that there is no intention to change. Does that mean that, when my noble friend and my noble friend Lady Scott leave their jobs, the next Ministers could have an intention to change, or does it mean that there will be no change, only consolidation?

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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Consolidation by definition does not extend to changing the policy effect of legislation.

Lord Stunell Portrait Lord Stunell (LD)
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My Lords, I think the noble Earl will have detected a degree of unease right around the Chamber about how this clause will take effect, not just in the course of this Administration but in the hands of a different one at a future date. I have heard the discussion and learned a lot. I will need to read Hansard and the noble Earl’s letter when it comes and take a view on whether this is something to take further forward. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

I agree wholeheartedly with Amendment 281C in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead. The Bill is riddled with two very worrying threads of intention. Yet again, even more powers will be given to the Secretary of State to intervene and, yet again, exactly how, when and why are to be given in subordinate legislation: the often-mentioned revised NPPF, the contents of which we still do not know. The power given to a Secretary of State to overturn the legal and democratic process is necessary but rarely used—and then only in extreme circumstances—for very good reasons. However, that has been undermined in recent years and most recently by announcements by the current Secretary of State. I therefore understand and share the noble and learned Lord’s concerns.
Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, all the amendments in this group relate to the enforcement clauses in the Bill and it may be helpful if I begin by explaining briefly the rationale for the package of enforcement measures that the Bill contains. The Government recognise that effective enforcement is vital to maintain public confidence and trust in the planning system. The noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, made that point very powerfully. Local planning authorities already have a wide range of enforcement powers, with strong penalties for non-compliance, to tackle breaches of planning control. The Bill’s measures are intended to strengthen those powers so that local planning authorities are better able to take the robust action their communities want to see.

Amendments 275 to 279 inclusive all deal with Clause 107 on enforcement time limits. Amendments 275 and 277, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, seek to retain the current four-year time limit for commencing enforcement action against breaches of planning control where the breach has a significant impact on the local environment. Amendments 276 in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, seeks to retain the four-year time period after which enforcement action cannot be brought where there has been a breach of planning control consisting of the change of use of any building to use as a single dwelling house. Amendment 278 in the name of the noble Earl would require consultation to take place and a report to be published before Clause 107 can come into force. The noble Earl’s further amendment, Amendment 279, seeks to add to the Bill confirmation that breaches of planning control which are currently immune from enforcement action will remain immune following the passing of the Act.

Let me give the Committee some background on the need for Clause 107. Currently, Section 171B(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 imposes a four-year time limit on local planning authorities beginning enforcement action against a breach of planning control consisting of building, engineering, mining or other operations. Section 171B(2) imposes the same four-year time limit for a breach of planning control consisting of a change of use of any building to use as a single dwelling house. All other breaches of planning control are subject to a 10-year time limit. However, we have heard from key stakeholders the very point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, that there are some cases where the current four-year time limit is not long enough and the opportunity to commence enforcement action is inadvertently missed.

For example, a person may not initially raise concerns with a local planning authority, assuming a neighbouring development has the correct permissions or will not cause disturbance. Should the development prove disruptive, they may then try to come to an agreement with the person responsible for it. However, by the time they raise their concerns with the local planning authority, the opportunity to commence enforcement action may have passed.

We have also heard that having two timescales for enforcement can unnecessarily complicate cases. For example, where a new building has been constructed on land, enforcement action could be taken against the construction of the building itself, subject to the four-year rule, or against the material change of use of the land brought about by the construction of the building and its subsequent use, subject to the 10-year rule. This uncertainty can lead to lengthy and resource-intensive appeals and court cases debating the starting point for immunity.

Clause 107 seeks to address all these issues by making the time limit 10 years for all breaches of planning control in England. This will create greater certainty and consistency for all parties involved in the planning enforcement process and ensure that the opportunity to commence enforcement action is not inadvertently missed. To be very clear, Clause 107 is not about delaying the enforcement process unnecessarily. The expectation will remain that local planning authorities should act promptly to investigate and remedy breaches of planning control as quickly as possible.

Amendment 278 is about consultation. As I have already explained, we have engaged with key stakeholders during the preparation of the Bill. This package of enforcement measures is what the profession identified would most help it carry out its job more effectively. On the noble Earl’s Amendment 279, we will make transitional provisions in regulations to ensure that breaches of planning control that are currently immune from enforcement action will remain immune following the passage of the Bill. I hope that, with these reassurances, he will agree that these amendments are not required.

Amendment 280, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage, seeks to probe how technology can be used to support the new planning process. The Government share this ambition. We are keen to modernise the planning process and make better use of technology; amendments in Chapter 1 of Part 3 of the Bill, on planning data, are designed to do just that.

The new enforcement warning notices that we are introducing through the Bill may be served in a number of ways, including by electronic means, but I do not think it would be appropriate to make this the only means of serving such a notice. Enforcement warning notices are a planning enforcement tool. It is therefore vital that, if a local planning authority is beginning enforcement action, those against whom action is being taken receive the notices. Some do not use or have access to digital communication tools, and we must ensure that they are not disadvantaged. There is also the issue that an enforcement warning notice may be served on someone who has not engaged with the local planning authority and so the authority would not have an email address for them. I hope that, with this explanation, the noble Baroness will agree that this amendment is unnecessary.

Amendment 281, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, is about local authority resources. The measures in the Bill are designed to make the existing framework easier to use for enforcement officers. Where we are introducing new powers such as enforcement warning notices, their use is discretionary. As such, I do not think these measures will create significant additional burdens or resource pressures for local planning authorities.

However, we recognise that many local planning authorities already face capacity and capability challenges and we are taking steps to address this issue. We are currently consulting on proposals to increase planning application fees. In the enforcement context, this includes a proposal to double the fee for retrospective applications, in recognition that they often create additional work for officers over and above what is required for a regular application. To ensure that local planning authorities are well equipped and supported to deliver their existing requirements as well as the changes set out in the Bill, we have already started to work alongside the sector to design targeted interventions to support the development of critical skills and to build capacity across local planning authorities. With these reassurances, I hope the noble Baroness will agree that Amendment 281 is unnecessary.

I turn to Amendment 281A, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, and spoken to by the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor. The level of fine for failure to comply with a breach of condition notice is currently level 4 on the standard scale—a maximum of £2,500. The purpose of Clause 112 is to make fines for this offence unlimited, bringing them into line with the levels of fine for other planning enforcement offences. Amendment 281A would introduce a new sentencing requirement for this offence which would not apply to sentencing for other planning enforcement offences. It would not be reasonable to create a more punitive sentencing regime for the offence of non-compliance with a breach of condition notice than for other planning enforcement offences.

This amendment would also cut across the national approach to sentencing set out in the Sentencing Code which courts refer to when sentencing offenders. It is for the courts to determine the appropriate level of fine for an offence, taking into account its seriousness and the financial circumstances of the offender, including for this offence. Therefore, while I appreciate the sentiment behind this amendment, I feel that it is not appropriate for those reasons.

Amendment 281B, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, would ensure that relief from enforcement action under Clause 113 cannot be granted for any planning conditions relating to the type or volume of affordable housing. While I appreciate her concern about the power being used to restrict conditions about affordable housing, I reassure her that this is not the intention. Clause 113 has been brought forward to provide a statutory route to provide relief in future from planning conditions that unnecessarily impede economic activities during periods of disruption and uncertainty. This is in response to the experience during the height of the Covid pandemic to enable key business sectors to respond and recover from its impacts where we discouraged enforcement through policy.

Here, we focused exclusively on conditions related to the operative use of land or premises, such as construction working hours or delivery times. We would expect these types of conditions to provide relief from enforcement action in future. Conditions related to affordable housing were not in scope. More importantly, affordable housing provision is primarily secured through Section 106 planning obligations, rather than by condition. The concern that affordable housing provision could be affected by the use of this power is therefore misplaced. It does not affect Section 106 agreements.

Amendment 281C, tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, seeks to limit the use of the power under Clause 113 to periods of emergency or serious disruption. I recognise that the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee has recommended that this power should be limited to periods of emergency or serious disruption. We are carefully considering its recommendations and will respond to the committee before Report. However, I reassure the noble and learned Lord that I believe the committee has made some valid points on the scope of the power. It is intended to be used in emergencies and periods of disruption, and it will not be used lightly. We recognise that planning conditions are an important way of making development acceptable to communities and we want them to continue to be used.

Baroness Pinnock Portrait Baroness Pinnock (LD)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, has raised a very important issue about end-of-life care and how the planning system can be encouraged to prepare for the needs that will arise in the not-too-distant future. It is an argument that we on these Benches absolutely support; I will just expand it ever so slightly by saying that whenever there is a big allocation for a housing site, local residents immediately say there will be a huge pressure on primary healthcare—GP services. Although the community infrastructure levy enables planning authorities to try to extract some funding from the levy for improvements to primary healthcare services, it is often not that possible when there are so many other big demands placed on the levy—highways infrastructure, education, outdoor play space and so on.

Often, certainly in my part of the country, where house prices and land values are lower, the levy is therefore also lower and is unable to support the development of essential provision for primary healthcare. It is an area that I guess we may want to explore when we get to discussion about the replacement of the community infrastructure levy. I thought I would raise it now, in this context, because whichever of the Front Bench team is responding may be able to give me an answer. With that, I clearly support the amendments.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, the two amendments in this group, Amendments 213A and 312I, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, look to ensure, as she explained, that local planning authorities should consider the health and social care facilities needed for their area when considering future development. I am sure that we can agree that it is important to ensure that we have the right health and social care facilities in place where they are needed: that is why this is already a consideration as part of planning policy, guidance and legislation.

The National Planning Policy Framework is clear that when setting strategic policies, local planning authorities should set out an overall strategy for the pattern, scale and design quality of places, and make sufficient provision for community facilities, including for health infrastructure. The Government have set out in planning guidance how the need for health facilities, as well as other health and well-being impacts, can be considered as part of the plan-making and decision-making process. Plan-making bodies will need to discuss their emerging strategy for development at an early stage with directors of public health, NHS England, local health and well-being boards, and sustainability and transformation partnerships/integrated care systems, depending on the local context and the implications of development on health and care infrastructure. The National Planning Policy Framework must, as a matter of law, be given regard to in preparing the development plan, and is a material consideration in planning decisions.

We have also set out, in the consultation on reforms to national planning policy, that we are intending to undertake a wider review of the NPPF to support the programme of changes to the planning system, and, as part of this, we will consider updates needed to reflect the importance of better environmental and health outcomes. In addition, as part of the new infrastructure levy system, local authorities will be required to prepare an infrastructure delivery strategy. This will set out the local planning authority’s priorities for spending levy proceeds.

Section 204Q(11) requires levy regulations to determine the consultation process and procedures that must be followed when preparing an infrastructure delivery strategy. This can include which bodies must be consulted in order for charging authorities to determine their infrastructure priorities for spending the levy. Such bodies could include integrated care boards to ensure that health infrastructure is considered in the preparation of the infrastructure delivery strategy. We can also make provision that integrated care boards must assist charging authorities with the preparation of an infrastructure delivery strategy. That is Clause 93.